is an “intro meeting” the same as an interview, dress codes when you’re non-binary, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Is an “intro meeting” the same as an interview?

I have recently started job hunting for a position in a new career field after several years in food service and hospitality management. I’m really excited at the prospect of a career change. More typical office hours and a steady paycheck would be a huge relief.

I used all your advice for updating my resume and writing an awesome cover letter, and applied for a customer-facing position at a bank. The job description listed a lot of transferable skills that I think I’ve demonstrated in my past positions, so I figured it was worth a shot! Within 24 hours, the hiring manager emailed me about my application. He invited me for an “intro meeting” to “chat about our open X position.”

I was thrilled at the quick response, but now I’m second guessing the wording he used. Is an “intro meeting” different from an interview? If so, what should I expect? Should I prepare any differently? If it’s the same thing, why wouldn’t he just call it an interview?

It’s an interview! I don’t know why people sometimes use that wording because all it does is confuse and stress out candidates, but it’s an interview and you should prepare for it like an interview. It’s possible that it’ll be briefer or less in-depth than an interview later in their process will be … but it’s also possible it will be quite in-depth and even the only interview they do with candidates.

2. I’m non-binary at an office with a highly binary dress code

I recently started a new job in a large office. The role is a step up, with a nice bump to salary and benefits! As part of the onboarding, I was given the usual HR policies to read through. The company seems very inclusive, committed to diversity in its workforce, fair hiring practices, etc. The only problem I have is with the dress code.

The company has a broad but strict dress code policy. The policy is separated into dress codes for men and women, and both lists include many choices for permitted items of clothing (not just limited to business casual) and clearly states which items are not allowed (men are not permitted to wear shorts or makeup, for example). There are some things permitted for women that aren’t for men, and vice versa. Both lists are clearly defined, and there’s not a lot of overlap.

My issue? I’m a nonbinary person and have no idea how this applies to me. My wardrobe is fairly androgynous. I wear a mix of clothes from the men’s and women’s departments, and while my clothes are professional and smart, they don’t read as binary.

I reached out to HR and explained my situation. The HR rep was very friendly, assured me there would be no issues with my being a nonbinary person in the workplace, and told me I could “pick whichever dress code worked best for me.”

This didn’t reassure me and felt like being told not to be out at work. It also puts me in an awkward position. I don’t read visually as either a cis man or cis woman, and couldn’t pass well as either even if I wanted to. I’m out to my immediate team, but our office is large and open plan, so I can’t assume coworkers who don’t know me won’t be judging my appearance.

Now I’m nervous about what to wear to work and am unsure what to do. The company has a reputation for being strict on this kind of thing. I don’t want to have to pretend to be a gender I’m not while I’m in the office, but likewise, I don’t want to get in trouble because someone has reported me for assuming I’m a man wearing a skirt in the summer, or a woman wearing a man’s suit to a business meeting. I’m also not sure how much HR would have my back in that situation, given their mixed messages.

Are you comfortable going back to that HR person and doing some educating? You shouldn’t have to … but it sounds like it might have to. You could say, “I think I didn’t explain my concern clearly enough earlier. Non-binary people don’t identify as a man or a woman so needing to pick the men’s dress code or the women’s dress code would mean not being able to be out at work. Assuming that’s not the company’s intent, I’d like to just take from both dress codes the understanding that the items listed as permitted in each are acceptable for me to wear. Will that work?” That way you’re suggesting the solution you’d like (if indeed that’s what you would like), rather than the HR person having to come up with one since who knows how that would go. If the HR rep doesn’t agree to that and there’s more senior HR above them, try escalating it — sometimes involving someone more senior will fix stuff like this.

And at some point, if you want to, you might point out to whoever works on equity and inclusion there that having highly gendered dress codes isn’t aligned with their inclusion goals.

Read an update to this letter here

3. People reply to the original email, not my response — so my responses get left out of the chain

A question on email etiquette: I’ve been frustrated lately with colleagues responding to an original email sender instead of replying to my response. This usually results in senior colleagues talking amongst themselves, and my comments not being memorialized in the chain. Am I being sensitive as a junior employee, or is this rude?

Are your responses being ignored entirely? Like are you saying “I think a good solution would be X” or “how will we handle Y?” and everyone ignores you? If that’s happening a lot, then yes, it’s rude. In most cases anyway — although if you’re mostly on the email as an FYI, the subtext might just be, well, that you’re mostly on the email as an FYI. (Take a look at whether you’re in the To field or the CC field. Often if you’re cc’d, the message is just an FYI to you and the others on the message are expected to be the ones taking more action.)

But if it’s more just that people are responding to the initial email because they’re seeing it before they see your responses, that’s something that happens a lot and isn’t rude (annoying, sometimes, but not rude).

4. Pumping breast milk during a virtual training

I’m a manager at a large utility company. While I’ve been on maternity leave, our newish CEO has rolled out a week-long mandatory training for people leaders. I’ll be expected to join a session within a few weeks of my return since there are a limited number still remaining.

The training is provided by an outside vendor and is all day, every day for a week. You are required to have your video on at all times, except two 15-minute breaks and a one-hour lunch. If you do not, you have to retake the course and our company is notified. They are very strict.

Ordinarily I would be annoyed by this but just deal. However, I will be pumping breast milk for my infant during the day. I can try to align somewhat with the scheduled breaks, but my pumping sessions last longer than 15 minutes — more like 25 what with getting connected and returning milk and parts to the fridge. Plus, I may need the breaks to attend to other things or just … take a break!

I know companies must provide time and space to pump in person, but how does this work virtually? I’m not comfortable having my camera on while I pump. I’d like to let the organizer/presenter know ahead of time that I’ll be off camera periodically and frankly I’d prefer to advise rather than ask permission. But I also don’t want to seem aggressive or problematic since this is our CEO’s “baby.”

Yep, matter-of-fact is the way to go here — “I’m currently nursing and will be turning my camera off to pump several times during the day. I wanted to let you know ahead of time.” In other words, present it as if of course that accommodation will be understood and granted (because it should be). That’s not being aggressive or problematic; it’s just a normal thing people sometimes need to do, just like if you needed to use adaptive technology to communicate during the training, have an interpreter present, or any other accommodation that made it possible for you to participate.

Read an update to this letter here

5. Should I let job candidates know I’m going to be leaving soon after they start?

After asking repeatedly for months, I finally got the green light from my boss that I can expand my team and bring on an additional person. I’m excited and think this is a great opportunity for the team to take our work to the next level. The challenge I’m facing, however, is that I’m leaving the organization this year and the timing is such that I will likely only overlap with this new person for a short time before my replacement is selected.

I’ve seen firsthand how a shift in manager can impact a new employee’s experience early on so I want to approach this thoughtfully. I do feel strongly that I should move forward with this hire before I leave because I don’t know when my replacement will start and there will be a lot of other things on their plate in those early months — I don’t want to lose the momentum we’ve got.

What’s the best way to approach this? Do I disclose during the interview process, or do I wait until I’m extending an offer? Or do I need to step back and let this be a decision that my successor makes?

For some additional context: I gave a three-month notice period and the only reason I’m leaving is due to my family’s decision to relocate across the country — I love the company and would happily recommend it to anyone.

Definitely share it before a candidate accepts your offer! It won’t change most people’s minds, but (a) some people will feel blindsided if they learn on their first day that you’re leaving, even if it wouldn’t have rattled them if you’d told them earlier and (b) if working with you is a key part of their interest in the job, they need to know to take that out of their calculations before they accept.

It’s fine to wait to share until you’re at the point of making an offer, but it’s also fine to disclose it earlier in the process if you’d like. It doesn’t need to be a big deal — just something like, “I want to let you know that I’m going to be leaving in April because my family is moving, but I’ll have some time overlapping with whoever takes this role before my replacement begins.” And you can candidly answer questions people may have about that (such as the likely timeline for a replacement starting, whether they’ll have a period with no manager in place, etc.).

Read an update to this letter

{ 457 comments… read them below }

  1. Ainsel Pendragon*

    Nothing more to say except ugh, I feel LW 2 on the “being nonbinary at work” thing! At a new workplace now and we’re having to do the fun “even though I’m femme I’m still a them” dance.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      This struggle is why I’m not out at work. I used to have a very supportive boss (she left a year ago, don’t know what the current one’s position is) and legally I think I’m protected against gender discrimination, but I still am in an ultraconservative industry and don’t want to rock the boat.

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        I feel like part of the problems is that there hasn’t been enough non-binary representation out there in more conservative dress industries. We have a good idea what “business conservative” looks like for men (usually a suit or slacks and a jacket), and women (a different cut of suit, possibly a skirt, conservative makeup optional), and trans people simply adopt the clothing of their gender, but what does “non-binary conservative” look like?

        It’s probably not a particularly hard question to answer, it’s just not something anyone has thought about. If nothing else I feel like “pants, button up, jacket, and depending on formality, some sort of neckwear” is likely to be fine. It’s pretty acceptable dress for anyone.

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          Reading through other comments I think I’m wrong here. There’s plenty of representation, businesses just aren’t doing a good job of noticing and keeping up :-(

        2. Dahlia*

          I mean, plenty of people have thought about that. Non-binary businesswear is just businesswear worn by non-binary people. There’s not a secret special third option only enbies know about.

        3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          when I was first entering the workforce and worked as a high-end retail manager, a mentor told me to always wear three pieces to look the best. endless combinations — pants, collared shirt, jacket/skirt, button down, cardigan/pants, sweater, sizable scarf or tie/skirt, sweater set/etc.

          He also taught me the “hose, hem, heel” rule for choosing hosiery (it was the early 2000s). All three need to match — or REALLY REALLY definitely obviously not match on purpose if you were going for a statement shoe or tights.

        4. Allison Wonderland*

          But why shouldn’t there just be one dress code for everyone? Like, if shorts are banned, they should be banned for everyone.

        5. DataSci*

          I agree with almost everything Alison writes to OP #2, except that I doubt anyplace that is so old-fashioned as to have non-overlapping dress codes for “men” and “women” will HAVE anyone working on equity and inclusion. Or if they do, they’ll think that representation for cis white women is inclusion.

    2. tinybutfierce*

      Not in direct relation to number 2, but I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your answers to questions like those, Alison. As a queer non-binary person, it means a lot.

    3. Alex the Alchemist*

      Yep, I’m trying to figure out how to navigate it at my new job too. This job I think will likely be very supportive, but my last one very much wasn’t, so I’m a little burned.

    4. Cait*

      As a former HR person I was kind of appalled at HR’s response. Considering how strict they are on dress code you’d think they’d have noticed this glaring problem already. As soon as I read what the OP told HR I thought my response would be, “I sincerely apologize for Company X’s lack of inclusivity here. I understand why you’re concerned. I’m going to make it a priority that we re-write the dress code to cover everyone, not just men and women. If you would like to help us with this process, your perspective would be very much appreciated. However, you certainly don’t have to if you don’t want to. In the meantime, I would say the overarching theme to the dress code is neat, clean, and business professional. As long as your outfit covers those three criteria, you should be good. If you have any questions about work attire between now and when we roll out the new dress code, please let me know.”

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        I love how you added “but you don’t have to”. Inclusivity initiatives that require unpaid labor from folks the company is ostensibly trying to be inclusive of are all too common.

      2. sadnotbad*

        Yeah this kind of policy could be a DE&I problem beyond gender inclusivity, too. Often these sorts of super strict dress codes forbid certain hairstyles or grooming methods that are preferred by people with naturally curly or kinky hair–like Black people. There’s also the question of why the Western business suit is considered the epitome of professionalism and not other cultural formalwear. The “men can’t wear makeup” one really gets under my skin, too. That seems to go beyond professionalism into enforcing gender stereotypes for their own sake.

        1. Very Social*

          Right?! What possible reason could there be to forbid men from wearing makeup or skirts other than homophobia?

          1. Industrial Tea Machine*

            Yeah! Why shouldn’t a man wear a nice professional dress or skirt to work? There are a lot of problems with this dress code’s idea of gender presentation and professionalism even if there were only two genders (which there are not).

          2. Turanga Leela*

            Sexism is pretty deeply baked into the idea of “business attire.” Dress codes codify an idea of what people should look like, which necessarily incorporates a lot of sexism, classism, colonialism, etc.

            A nonbinary lawyer on Twitter once posted a photo of their professional outfit—including a skirt suit and full beard—and honest to god, my first reaction was, “I would have shaved my legs with that skirt.” Apparently, not very deep in my brain, I carry the expectation that no one will show leg hair at work.

        2. Harvey 6 3.5*

          Your makeup comment is interesting because I was trying to think of something that a cis-man wears that a cis-woman could not. Because other than makeup (and I don’t really know why a man couldn’t wear makeup if they wanted to), every garment that a man wears at work, a woman could wear without any comment (suit, khakis and button down, jeans and polo shirt, or whatever). So if OP is non-binary, I hope they can wear whatever they want.

            1. Clorinda*

              . . . Which is very odd. Pantsuits have been professional women’s wear for a couple of decades now.
              Maybe it’s hair? Men are expected to have short hair? (And that is culturally problematic in several ways, too.)
              It sounds like HR meant that OP could use the men’s code as “neutral,” but could use the women’s code if they wanted to dress up a bit. Not the point, HR!

            2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              I mean, women can’t wear pants? That’s problematic on *all* kinds of levels. I can’t imagine that’s the rule or they would have been sued long since.

              1. ForeignLawyer*

                There are some very stuffy corners of law and finance where yeah, the heavily implied dress code is that women cannot/do not wear pants, but that’ll never be spelled out explicitly because it’s rather illegal (and disgusting). I’m aware of several of these places just in my current city — there’s usually a whisper network letting women/non-binary people know that you might get hired there, and they’ll even tolerate a woman wearing pants (or a non-binary person wearing professional kit that doesn’t suit some idiot partner’s ideas of gender norms), but your career will absolutely not go anywhere at that firm if you break the implicit rule.

            3. Canadian Librarian #72*

              It sounded more to me like that was something they were concerned could happen, not like something that actually did. Frankly, it seems much more likely (unfair as it is) that a “man” would be in trouble for wearing a skirt or dress than a “woman” would have issues wearing a pantsuit, even a masculine one. I’ve worked in very conservative corporate environments and have seen plenty of women wearing pantsuits, including ones that are clearly not womenswear but more male-coded attire.

              I haven’t seen any men wearing skirts or dresses – the closest I can think of would be a colleague who initially identified and presented as a man, but later came out as a woman and began wearing women’s clothing (including dresses) only after coming out and beginning her transition. Obviously, that’s not the same thing at all; she was a woman wearing women’s clothing, not a man wearing skirts or dresses. (It’s not that she “passed” either, it’s that she presented herself as a woman and was seen as a woman by evyerone in the office.)

              (Man and woman in scare quotes as I’m trying to convey “person perceived as a man/woman”, not stating that the LW is either.)

          1. sadnotbad*

            Making a comment here not to call you out but to compassionately point out an assumption your comment makes which is pretty common: That the LW is AFAB (assigned female at birth) and by passing for cis they could wear both suits and skirts without comment. This may not be the case. If the LW is AMAB (assigned male at birth) and has a build or looks that otherwise “read” as male to some of their colleagues, they may raise eyebrows by showing up to work in a dress one day.

            I’m bringing this up because there is often an underlying assumption that nonbinary people are AFAB, and also that it’s easy or acceptable for them to pass as cis women. This is damaging to nonbinary people of any makeup because it erases the existence of AMAB nonbinary people and reduces nonbinary identity to something of a costume. Not accusing you of being mean-spirited or ignorant, just taking the opportunity to share a perspective that I hope will educate people!

            1. Clorinda*

              That is a good point, and OP took care to mention that they don’t really “pass” as either, so pretending to be male or female isn’t a good option for them.

          2. Amy*

            There are offices where women must wear high-heeled shoes. Men obviously can wear flat shoes, but women cannot.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              I would have to push back hard on such a thing. With my disability, high heels are literally dangerous, as in “break my ankle” dangerous. I’m also non-binary, which makes the high heel thing sort of insulting, too.

              I’m very glad I work from home.

        3. Fred*

          Some men from Indiginous cultures are also impacted by things like requirements that men wear their hair short.

        4. Hats Are Great*

          Yeah, are companies even ALLOWED to say men can’t wear makeup? Isn’t the line these days usually, “Makeup must be subtle and professional” or something like that?

    5. Free Meerkats*

      Can we just frelling eliminate dress codes that aren’t company uniforms or for safety? What you’re wearing Just. Doesn’t. Affect. How. You. Do. Your. Job!!!

      1. BBA*

        Especially such a heavily gendered one as OP describes. They’re gonna get people wondering what the hezmana is going on with their inclusivity efforts.

      2. Turanga Leela*

        It’s very hard in industries where part of your job is coming across well to a third party. If you’re a litigator, you need to think about how you read to a judge and jury (and, frankly, to clients). I’m guessing it’s similar in sales and other client-focused work.

        This doesn’t mean you don’t push for change. Some people are (still!) bothered by pants on women, but I wear pants to court. Nonbinary and genderqueer lawyers adapt dress codes to meet their needs. So do people who have religious requirements about what they wear. But it’s more complicated than “wear whatever you want.” My clients would not appreciate it if I showed up to oral argument in a hoodie.

        1. Sasha Casey*

          I don’t think anyone is saying “wear whatever you want” — though in an ideal world we would be able to — but rather we should be able to wear items of work attire without being forced into gendered boxes. If a dress code for (assumed to be cis) women allows for skirts at knee-length or longer, why not for men? Why not for people of other genders who like skirts? If subtle jewelry or makeup are permitted, that shouldn’t be limited to a gender either. If a dress code for (assumed to be cis) men says conservative ties or bow ties are good, those clothing items don’t have a gender and shouldn’t be limited to just cis men.

      3. Hats Are Great*

        My husband once interviewed at a company where he was told they “had a professional dress code, and men must wear suits.” He wore a suit anyway, it was an interview for a lawyer job. But at the interview, he discovered they also require women must wear skirts, must wear long sleeves, and must be covered neck-to-ankle. If it was over 90*F, men whose managerial duties meant they were in the warehouse for a lot of the day were permitted to wear a polo, rather than a dress shirt, under their jacket, and only remove the jacket to go in the (extremely hot) warehouse. But the polo had to remain tucked in and buttoned allllllll the way up (you know, the way Normal Earth Humans definitely wear polos). Women were not hired to warehouse positions because they could not comply with the dress code in the warehouse (due to safety issues and EXTREME HEAT).

        He was like “yeah …. no lawyer in their right mind is going to enforce this, good luck with your search.”

        (Later on we learned that women were not promoted to management roles for BIBLE REASONS about women not managing men, except for the owner’s wife, of course.)

      4. Lucy Skywalker*

        Eh, I would be uncomfortable working in a place where people were allowed to wear nothing but underwear.

    6. Alex (they/them)*

      I’m non-binary but not out at work because I know it’ll be a mess even if no one’s outright an asshole

  2. Jennie*

    Re: needing to pump during training – you absolutely should be able to to turn off your video, but if for some reason they insist it be on (and I absolutely hate when people make that their “hill to die on”. What I’ve done in the past is mute myself and either step off camera or make my camera point to something uninteresting like the ceiling. That way I’ve met their camera on criteria and maintained my privacy.

        1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          Reminds me of the fish tank on Big Brother. When they are doing something the cameras can’t see (aka competitions or someone singing a copyrighted song) the cameras go to the fish tank.

    1. Anonys*

      To be honest, this camera on at all times is absolutely unreasonable if they really need to have people on camera the whole time. I can’t believe they didnt take into account that its not possible for many people, such as nursing mothers, people who might urgently need the bathroom, etc.

      In fact, I cant believe they think everyone can only pee at three (scheduled) times during the workday so surely they must be ok with people being off camera for a little bit??? Also, is there a person in the meeting who tracks whether someone’s camera switches off for a few seconds (what if someone’s connection is bad?).

      1. Yay, I’m a Llama Again!*

        I run training, at the moment via zoom. It’s ridiculous to insist on cameras on all the time!

        1. EPLawyer*

          I am presuming these have been running for a bit now. It would be interesting to see how people really feel about having their cameras on all the time for 8 hours a day with only 3 breaks by about day 3. Zoom fatigue is real. I am betting participation drops precipitously as the week goes on and people become less focused.

          Honestly whoever designed this training really needs to think if it needs to be done this way for this long. I’m betting at least 1/3 of the material can be cut.

          Definitely push back OP, its just not reasonable to expect this of anyone.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Seriously! It’s not just ridiculously strict, it’s inevitably going to lower the quality of participation.

          2. Milk Maker*

            Pumping OP here – from speaking with people who have already gone through the training there is a heavy emphasis on sharing personal/emotional content that influences your work (UGH) and being on camera is supposed to facilitate that I guess? Sigh…

            1. Clorinda*

              Haul out the pump and threaten to hook yourself up-guaranteed there will be many voices asking for you to go dark!

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Seriously. Even during an in-person training it is possible to slip out for a quick pee/medication/jumping jacks in hallway break. Pretty much every training I have been in someone slipped away/stayed over the break at some point. I’d swear they are trying to make virtual training more painful than in-person

        1. Kshoosh*

          Maybe these same trainers are ticked at those people who take much needed human breaks during in-person training, and thought to themselves when planning the Zoom training, “now we can MAKE them stay the entire time!” (Then cackled evilly?)

          1. Observer*

            To me it would have been the reverse – Now we don’t have to worry that someone trying to get a bathroom break is going to disrupt anyone else.

      3. Lacey*

        Seriously! If I could only pee three times during the work day I would lose my mind. Even if I could physically make that happen, I would spend a lot of the day stressed out and distracted by how much I needed to pee!

        1. Teapot Librarian*

          As soon as you tell me I can’t pee, I need to. Even if I just did. My bladder is highly protective of its autonomy.

        2. Teacher Schedule*

          This comment made me smile as a teacher that’s my norm. I pee twice a day. On my lunch and my planning which is first period this year. Also when I pumped I pumped under a tshirt at in person meetings. Teaching is different than other professions though.

      4. Dino*

        I left a webinar 30 minutes in because it started at 6:30am on a Saturday and required cameras on at all times, and the facilitator chastised people for “taking notes instead of paying attention”.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I just made the face from that Nathan Fillion gif.

          Taking notes IS paying attention! Some people shouldn’t be allowed to be trainers.

          1. Dino*

            Exactly! I wanted to leave feedback saying the professional version of “guess you don’t want ADHDers in your training, deuces”. But decided I wanted to enjoy my Saturday more than fight the good fight.

            I also had a training at a past job on child abuse, suicidal threats, and mandatory reporting that required cameras on at all times or else they’d stop the presentation to call you out. As someone who has first hand experience with those topics, I spent most of my mental effort concentrating on not crying/fixing my face. I don’t remember a single thing from that training. It was especially ironic because teachers were not allowed to require students have cameras on for a multitude of good reasons. I did leave feedback with the department head after that one.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Jeez, both those facilitators shouldn’t be allowed to trainers anymore. I came here to comment that I actually find it wildly distracting to see all the other students in an online training session and wish that they all required people to log in without using their cameras.

              And then I saw your comments and particularly the second one and now I double down on my distraction stance. You were so distracted with trying to fix your face and not cry on camera that you didn’t actually learn anything from the session and I’d bet real money you weren’t the only person in the session who had that issue. So cameras off is the way to go if you want people to focus on the training and not on, say, their appearance or the lighting in their office or trying not to cry in front of total strangers. Or, say, other trainees’ appearances or lighting or if the other trainees are crying. (And yes, I know you can hide other participants in Zoom, but it shouldn’t even be necessary to do that.)

              1. Splendid Colors*

                Something else that annoys me is when facilitators insist that everyone needs to have their cameras on and make eye contact with them via the camera to better emulate FOR THE PRESENTER the experience of teaching a live class. “I just can’t teach as well when I just see a screen full of names.” And then they’re doing a screenshare… so where exactly are they looking at the screen full of names? Do they have a second monitor just to look at the participants? I’ve given Zoom presentations and all I can see during a screenshare IS the screen I’m sharing. And how am I supposed to read their slides and see their face at the side of the screen if I’m concentrating on making eye contact with the camera on the top edge of my iMac?

                And then they won’t record the presentation for participants to review later (when I can CONCENTRATE on it) because they don’t know how to do the thing where everyone clicks “Got It” about the recording in progress, or they don’t want to record people’s questions (and then they insist that people type questions into the chat so the chat talks over anyone’s screen readers, and they modify the questions when reading them so they don’t make sense). So much fail going on here…

        2. Observer*

          the facilitator chastised people for “taking notes instead of paying attention”.

          That’s a new one! Of all the incompetent things to say!

        3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          Taking notes the traditional way – writing them down pencil-and-paper style, NOT typing them on the computer – has been shown to be the BEST way for people to remember what’s being taught; it’s as if doing this engraves it on your mind. Any facilitators who scold people for taking notes need to bring themselves up to date on what actually helps people absorb the material they’re teaching.

          1. PT*

            I’m wondering if the facilitator didn’t want people taking notes of what was said in the training and going to their boss/HR/the trainer’s supervisor and saying “The trainer told us, [this], verbatim.”

            I had a boss who didn’t like me taking notes in meetings for this reason. He knew he was not doing his job correctly and he was worried that I had proof.

            He was in fact the sort of unreliable, inconsistent boss you had to take careful CYA notes on, so he was right to be worried: he just fixated on the wrong thing (my notes) instead of doing his job correctly.

            1. pancakes*

              I suppose that makes some sort of sense in a meeting with just two attendees, where your boss might be able to count on coming out ahead in a He Said vs. PT Said conflict, but in a training scenario the facilitator is going to be outnumbered. Even if no one is allowed to take notes, which is ridiculous, some of the attendees will be able to confirm the recollections of the others.

          2. Dahlia*

            Notes on a computer are also necessary for many people with disabilities that mean they can’t handwrite.

            1. LittleMarshmallow*

              I have awful carpal tunnel and basically can only write a few words at a time before my hand is completely numb (which means my handwriting is also not great). My hands are always a little numb but just a little writing is awful so I do really appreciate being able to type notes. I generally suck at note taking anyway (even back when I could still feel my hands properly), but in addition to the hand thing, I type sooooo much faster than I can write which means I don’t miss as much content trying to keep up writing notes while a trainer plows forward with a lesson.

        4. Oryx*

          Even before the pandemic I have been in presentations where the facilitator would say things like “I’m going to be emailing this powerpoint deck out later so you don’t need to take notes”

          Like, cool, thanks. Still gonna write things down while you’re speaking.

          1. Dino*

            Right! And if they wanted to really helpful, they’d ask if anyone wanted printed copies of the slide deck beforehand, and have them ready for the training so people can take notes right on them.

            1. NNN222*

              That’s actually how most of the biology department at my college taught and most of us loved it. They’d put their slide deck online before class so we could all print it and take notes directly on it during the lecture. I’d three-hole punch it so I could keep it all together in a binder with added loose-leaf notebook paper as needed for additional notes. It was so helpful to be able to follow along like that (and admittedly to have a visual representation of how much of the lecture we had left to get through).

            2. NNN222*

              That’s what most of the biology department at my college did and it was my favorite style of lectures. They’d put the slide deck up enough before class that we could print it and bring it with. Most of us printed it in the format that put three slides on a page in the left column and blank lines in the right column for easy note-taking.

              1. NNN222*

                And I thought my original comment didn’t go through so I guess you all get two different ways of saying the same thing.

            3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              IIRC PowerPoint actually has a “page” version that deliberately prints “slide, blank space for notes, slide, blank space for notes…” specifically to facilitate this. I’m not a note taker myself, but I deeply respect those of you who are.

          2. Observer*

            That’s actually useful. Some people are still going to take notes, but for people who can’t / don’t want to take notes, knowing that the slide deck is coming is good to know. And the deck is also useful to people who take notes.

            And, at least it indicates that the presenter is not worrying about who is going to actually hold him to what he said…

            1. Oryx*

              Oh, for sure. I have no problem with decks being sent later and know it’s helpful for some. It’s more the implication that we shouldn’t be taking notes because the deck is coming.

              1. Observer*

                I agree with that. All I meant is that in such a case, it sounds like the facilitator is trying to be genuinely helpful and would also not be likely to get on their high horse if you dated to take notes anyway.

            1. LittleMarshmallow*

              This is why I always have to ask for a proof reader for my slide presentations. I am so bad at knowing what should go on a slide and how to make it “fancy”. The last one I had to do… I literally went to one of the guys from a different cluster of our group with presentation that was white background with black letters in probably arias font with bullet point lists on each slide. I knew it was bad but I didn’t know how to fix it. Luckily that team is awesome and he helped me make the presentation presentable.

      5. Observer*

        To be honest, this camera on at all times is absolutely unreasonable if they really need to have people on camera the whole time.

        That was my first thought. Do people need to raise their hand and ask permission to take a bathroom break?

        what if someone’s connection is bad?

        Yeah, you would think that after all of the publicity about these issues, someone would be just a LITTLE bit aware of this.

      6. DivineMissL*

        I’ve been taking classes virtually, where we are required to have the camera on the whole time. I am so tired of having to watch people eating and drinking directly into the camera. I really don’t want to be forced to watch someone chewing a donut at me, or blowing their nose, close up! Trust me, it’s time to turn the camera off.

      7. DivineMissL*

        I’ve been taking classes virtually, where we are required to have the camera on the whole time to prove we’re paying attention. I get that, but – I am so tired of having to watch people eating and drinking directly into the camera. I really don’t want to be forced to watch someone chewing a donut at me, or blowing their nose, close up! People need to realize what they’re doing when they’re on view like this!

        1. NNN222*

          That would actually make me pay less attention than if my camera was on. I would be paying more attention to looking like I’m paying attention than I would to just listening.

        2. Observer*

          People need to realize what they’re doing when they’re on view like this!

          You think they don’t realize? I think it’s just as likely that they know and simply don’t care. If keeping the camera on for hours is required, it’s just not reasonable to expect that you are not going to see some stuff that you’re rather not see. If I’m really hungry, I am not going to not eat so that someone can be spared the horror of watching me eat. And what is someone supposed to do if they need to blow their nose, anyway?

      8. lilsheba*

        This is a tad unrelated but yes there are companies that think you can only pee at specific break times during the day. I worked in a call center in a bank and they literally said we were expected to be off the phone on breaks and lunch, and we were letting people down if we did it outside of that, and we were punished by being “out of adherence” I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with that bs anymore.

      9. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        It’s unreasonable period, but to add to that, this is a management course? For managers? Like, people we normally associate with having a good degree of responsibility and are probably not just going to wander off to play video games mid-course?

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of this for anyone, it just seems particularly odd for people that you theoretically have a higher level of trust in.

    2. Foxgloves*

      Pointing the camera right up so just the very top of your head is visible could also work if they are specifying that YOU must be visible on camera at all times. You are visible! It’s just that it’s only a small part of you…

    3. WellRed*

      Now see, I wouldn’t assume “cameras on at all times” means I must also be “on camera at all times.” As a non-kindergartner, I assume if I needed to step away for 5 minutes to use the bathroom, that wouldn’t be an issue.

    4. Biscotti*

      A coworker set hers to a framed picture of her while she pumped. Since Covid and the need to be on zoom all the time I have a few favorites of co-workers who needed to be away or didn’t want to be on camera they turned their camera on other things, my favorites have been:
      – a puppy playing with a his toys
      – backyards (Pools, mountains, ponds)
      – Cats/dogs sleeping
      – Coworker’s spouse decorating a cake
      Depending on the level of boring of the meeting and the talent of your spouse/significant other/roomates I suggest the puppy.

        1. Cait*

          I almost feel like if they give her a hard time about it, malicious compliance is the way to go. Like in The Office when Pam asks everyone not to bring in smelly food because she was pregnant and nauseated. Then Dwight started eating in front of her so she just casually barfed into a trash can in front of him. If the OP is comfortable enough, I would just start pumping away on camera! Hell, if the baby is around, I’d also start changing the poopy diaper right in front of the camera. You want me to be attentive and visible ALL DAY? You got it!

          1. JustaTech*

            I was in a wedding in the Before Times where the officiant (a very close friend) had just had twins so while we’re doing the pre-wedding prep of lacing up the bride the officiant is sitting there chatting, pumping away under her voluminous but fancy/professional shirt.
            (I know not everyone can pump under those kinds of conditions, but it was honestly amazing that she didn’t actually look like she was pumping.)

      1. Lab Boss*

        “Jan, could you please go off camera again? Not gonna lie, I’m getting a lot more enjoyment out of watching Harvey make a cake than I am out of this training.”

    5. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I would love update on this one. Even if it is “I told them I was pumping and everything was fine”. ESPECALLY if the response was “I told them I was pumping and everything was fine”. I need some reassurance the world can be a kind and lenient place.

      It does sound like the person running the training thinks they are leading a kindergarten class and not a professional work space. In my experience if you treat people like professional adults they will (for the most part) act like it – but treat them like kindergarteners and they will start to act like it. Nothing like bringing in a group with a chip already on their shoulder that their potty breaks are being scheduled for them.

      1. Zephy*

        I’m not OP but my office has some trainings scheduled for later in the month, where word came down from on high that it was All Cameras On All The Time, No Exceptions. I am VERY firmly in Camp No Cameras Ever, Please, God. I sent an email to my boss explaining that I’m not comfortable and will not be able to focus on the very important training if I have to be on-camera, and offered to provide some other proof of engagement, like notes or chat responses, if that was the rationale behind requiring all 200 attendees to be on camera (which is a whole other problem – we use Teams, it runs poorly enough when *nobody* is on camera in a call with that many people attending).

        Happy ending: the Big Boss that Decreed that All Must Be Visible To Her acquiesced, she explained that yes, engagement was the concern, but she’s not actually worried about my team or me in particular.

        1. JustaTech*

          I think you’ve hit on another really important thing here: If you have more than maybe 10 participants, you can’t actually see everyone even if they do have their cameras on, because they don’t all fit on the screen. So unless someone on the trainer’s team is doing nothing but cycling through all the pages of videos looking for someone who’s slacking, what’s the point?

          1. Zephy*

            Exactly! We won’t even all be visible on-screen during the actual important part of the training, because the trainer will be sharing her screen and going through her presentation – Big Boss did ask if I could just turn on my camera for a second at the beginning, I explained I don’t even have a camera set up in my office and she was like “oh, then don’t worry about it.” Like. If I blow off the training, or call in and then minimize it to play Candy Crush or something, it will very quickly become obvious that I wasn’t listening and that’s a matter for my boss to sort out. Whether I listen, retain, absorb, and implement the material covered in the training is actually not the trainer’s responsibility. Now, if nobody abides by the new guidelines, then the trainer’s boss needs to take a closer look at her, but if it’s one person or one team screwing things up, that’s a thing that individual managers and regional directors can address, and absolutely no part of that process requires anyone to be on-camera. Hell, the trainer doesn’t even need to be visible and actually it’s better if she isn’t, because again, she’ll be screensharing to walk us through a process – we need to be watching that, not her face.

    6. 2 Cents*

      I work for a company that reveres the CEO like a god (yes, I know that’s problematic) and when he came to the training, it was mandatory cameras on. But my baby wanted a snack and didn’t know he was supposed to wait for mom’s break. I turned my camera off so I could still listen. I got a stern note from the HR person to “please put your camera on.” I wrote back “I’m nursing my child.” “Oh, then, please turn it back on when you’re finished.” Yeah, hadn’t thought of that possibility with moms working from home (duh).

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        I won’t lie – I exclusively pumped for my son and I got pretty blase about hooking up to the milk station whenever it was needed, regardless of who was visiting (my house, my threat of mastitis, my rules). I pumped in parking lots when needed. This was all done discreetly with a pumping bra and coverlet, but I would absolutely hook up on zoom if I needed to and let them watch me go through the process if they insisted I leave my camera on. I might turn away to get everything set up, but let them hear the machine whirring for the 25mins it could take, etc.

    7. Cat Tree*

      I had a week long virtual training during pumping, but thankfully no video. However, it was software training and set up so that if I missed a few steps it would be hard to catch up and do the rest. There were so many problems with this training. They had only one break per half-day, BUT they didn’t schedule it ahead of time. It was whenever the instructors felt like it. Pumping time isn’t always that flexible. Plus, the instructors were really bad at staying in track and would go on long tangents, especially with one student who was particularly argumentative. So when they got started, it might be 2 minutes or literally an hour.

      I would bring my laptop to the kitchen during these tangents to get myself set up to pump, and listen with half an ear in case they got back on track. Then I would pump while doing the training. But I also have IBS and take a diuretic medication so one break would never be enough. I hate taking my laptop into the bathroom, but I had to do it a few times. I at least managed to never touch the laptop between starting and washing my hands.

      I hate long meetings that don’t plan for people to be people.

      1. JustaTech*

        “I hate long meetings that don’t plan for people to be people.”

        This is so very true. In person and virtually. There’s a conference my director is very enamored of that I keep choosing to not go to because they regularly schedule days that are 7:30am to 10pm, where essentially every minute is very intellectually challenging (a scientific conference, where if all the speakers are good your brain is complete mush after one day). I’d much rather go to the conference that is 8-5 plus supper.

        Though the meeting that not only didn’t provide lunch (just breakfast and dinner) but also took away the coffee during the presentation sessions was a new kind of miserable. Hungry, under-caffeinated, cold people don’t learn well!

    8. Milk Maker*

      Pumping OP here – this is a great suggestion, as are the others to point the camera towards a sign or picture. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that myself! Maybe a photo of a milk jug…

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          One of the professors whose office used to be down the hall from mine would hang a picture of a cow on her door when she was pumping. It amused her. (This was pre-covid)

    9. calonkat*

      As a minor (this is NOT my hill to die on) defense of the training, I’ve seen this requirement in some trainings required by regulation. When they are in person, you can guarantee (by taking attendance throughout the day) that someone has attended their 16 hours of training to meet the requirement.

      When conducting such trainings virtually, having people on camera is literally the only way to be sure that people are at least pretending to listen. And when dealing with hazardous chemicals, or any other things that the legislature has determined REQUIRES a certain amount of training/certification, the trainers can’t verify participation without being able to see the attendees.

      Letting them know that you have a medical issue that requires more frequent or longer breaks should be fine, the big issue is being on camera most of the time and them being aware of why you’re off camera sometimes. The reason (even a vague one) can be documented, so they have it for their records.

      I’ve got a cover for my camera (my good camera came with a cover, and I got a sliding door for my laptop) so I don’t have to turn off video, I can just cover the camera lens when needed.

    10. Curmudgeon in California*

      You could even print out a selfie or a screen cap of you on camera and put it in front of the camera. That way “you” are “on camera” even when you’re not…

  3. Mialana*

    If women are allowed to wear make-up at work, men and non-binary people need to be allowed too.

    I don’t understand how a peace of clothing that is considered professional or even mandatory on people of one gender can be viewed as wildly unprofessional if a person of a different gender wears it. Like at all.

    Oh and than there’s the whole point about non-binary people not being acknowledged to exist at all.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Exactly. Why do companies who otherwise tout themselves as inclusive have gendered dress codes? This blind spot is maddening.

    2. Liz*

      It’s all tied in with traditional gender norms (which is of course cisnormative and binary in and of itself, not to mention overwhelmingly white/Western). Makeup on women is perceived as polished and professional; makeup on men is rebellious and “out there”. So many business norms tie in with conformity rather than practicality. It’s only recently that people have started to ask “but what purpose does that conformity serve?” And there is still pushback in the name of public perception.

      Varies hugely by office of course. My workplace, thankfully, would never have a code like this. My nonbinary colleague was coming to work in full makeup every day, and the occasional dress, long before they came out as transfemme. Nobody ever complained except for one bigoted client who was told to take his business elsewhere.

      1. Snuck*

        This is what I was pondering too. I went looking for web information on non binary professional dress codes, non binary dress styles etc and a couple of things really stuck out at me.

        One was… a lot of the dress styles are very flamboyant, and are NOT professional. This isn’t all non binary dressing of course, but most of what you find in a quick image search is very dramatic and in your face. This is not ‘professional wear’ for most industries.

        The professional looking stuff was fairly straight forward – it was simple suits with small details, quite androgynous, and all looked very neat and tidy and professional.

        The use of makeup is one factor, but the ‘fashion vs professional’ style choices are not that complex? Dress professionally, in slacks and blouses/shirts of a style of your choice? Trousers can be tailored, men’s style, women’s cut, wide leg, slim fit, whatever… something you can throw a blazer with for ‘formal’ and casual up for informal days. If trousers aren’t your thing and you want to wear the dresses and skirts predominantly then do that but keep it professional rather than ‘fashionable’?

        Make up… I’d just wear it, until someone told me I couldn’t. But I’m female so the risks are lower for me, I presume the OP might be (I don’t know the correct term for this, please bear with my ignorance) presenting as more male, even if he/she/they appear more androgynous as they state? I’d just start with light natural stuff, read the room, and gradually expand to what else you feel comfortable in.

        Women or men starting roles in new companies have to do this ‘feel out the room’ situation too – particularly ones who want to wear anything other than corporate culture standard issue suits. This is a common situation for everyone starting a new job, just non binary probably makes it feel more charged? My ‘kooky librarian’ would transition to ‘lots of black’ and then to ‘Hrm is she Goth?’ To “outright clearly goth wardrobe” gradually in corporate jobs. I always put it away for important meetings where it might be misconstrued, but generally found ways to express myself without surprising people quietly.

        I’d be tempted to meet the dress code of my choice, on any day I darn well felt like it “Today I dress within the “women’s wardrobe” and tomorrow I will come as a ‘man’. But I’m not non binary so I’m not sure where this sits, but that’s the sort of passive resistance I’ve been known to play :P

        1. EBStarr*

          The OP understands how to dress professionally; they said that their clothes *are* professional; so I don’t think the fashion versus professional distinction is what they need help with and I don’t really see how the supposedly flamboyant (a charged word in this context, by the way) clothes you saw from a quick image search are relevant. I get the sense that you’re searching for ways to categorize them (“presenting as more male”, “wanting to wear skirts and dresses predominantly”) within the gender binary since you’re used to thinking in those terms, but that is exactly what bothers them about the dress code.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          Googling non binary professional dress codes could be misleading.

          Being non binary is a rejection of a gender binary, so through that lens, non-binary dress isn’t really a thing any more than male or female dress is and I’d be suspicious of anything labeling itself as a non binary dress code.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I’m totally blanking on their name, but there is a non-binary Muslim TikTokker who did a video running through how they wear their head covering on very femme days to very masc days that (at least for me) gave a really good idea of the spectrum that non-binary can entail for an individual, not to mention a group. Non-binary isn’t a certain style, it is wearing the clothes, in whatever genre (professional, club, athletic) that best reflect your identity.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I would imagine a “specifically non-binary outfit” to include elements of both male and female dress: wearing a very masculine suit, but then adding kitten heels (as David Bowie famously did when invited to meet Tony Blair), or a classic men’s jacket paired with a skirt. Something that cishet men or women who dress conventionally wouldn’t really go for.
            I mean, if you’re non-binary and out and proud, whyever would you limit yourself to the clothes of only one gender, and why even would you limit yourself to only one gender at a time?

            1. anon today*

              For some people, sure. But that’s also missing the point a bit in the same way as people assuming non-binary means androgynous. A non-binary person should be able to wear whatever they want whenever they want (well, everyone should!) regardless of its gender coding. They aren’t more non-binary when wearing a variety of categories of clothes any more than they are less non-binary when wearing clothes only from one section of the shop, in the same way I (a bisexual woman) am not less a woman when I’m only wearing my husband’s clothes or less bisexual because I’m married to a man. What a lot of people want is for everyone to just stop coding clothing with gender entirely because we can’t seem to break away from the binary and there’s zero reason to keep gender coding clothing.

              1. Elizabeth I*

                I think the one reason that remains to keep clothing separated (or at least categorized?) by gender is fit. Though maybe we would describe that more accurately as being categorized by sex (designed to fit male vs. female body types) rather than by gender (designed to appeal to mens vs. women’s tastes)?

                I’m a petite hourglass (cis) woman who loves many elements of menswear (herringbone, houndstooth, very subtle colors and patterns, etc), and I am constantly disappointed by the lack of availability of these elements in women’s clothing – as well as the high quality that is often present in men’s clothes and not in women’s.

                However, I can’t just shop in the men’s department because the fit would be atrociously bad on me and I would look incredibly sloppy. It’s important to me to find clothing that is made to fit my body type – but from a personal preference standpoint, I would love to have the option of choosing the patterns, colors, and fabrics that men’s departments typically offer.

                I hope we can move toward a world where we can all find the fashion choices we want in a fit that works for our body shapes. Given the generally vastly different fit issues between male and female bodies, though, I can’t really imagine a future in which clothing just becomes universal/not categorized as being designed for males vs. females.

                1. Astor*

                  The fact that you can’t imagine it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to meet your personal needs without making other people choose labels that don’t fit them. There’s a lot of discussion amongst people who have thought on this for a long time. For example, you can refer to the fit by shape instead of by gender using a description like “straight cut” and “curvy cut” (instead of men’s/unisex t-shirt and women’s t-shirt) or how a company might have multiple different names for the fit of their jeans.

                  This makes it so that people can choose clothes that fit their body instead of that fit their gender. Especially welcoming to trans and non-binary people, and also useful for cis people whose body shape isn’t as closely aligned with expectations of their gender. I know a couple of cis men who are short and thin size and find that an extra-small women’s t-shirt fit them best. And it also works for people whose body shape is closely aligned with expectation about my gender- I have an hourglass/pear shaped body so calling it a women’s dress isn’t enough – I specifically need to know that shaped so that it’s going to flare from the waist. But it’s also enough for me to be onboard with changing these names and norms because of the way they hurts trans people.

                  I also urge you to remember that people who have thought about gender enough to decide they don’t fit them have probably thought about them deeply and had discussions with other people. They’re not starting from scratch with solutions, they’re just fighting other people’s norms. Like the norm of calling a specific shape a woman’s shape when there’s actually a huge variety of women’s shapes and a number of men (including both cis and trans men) who require one of those shapes too.

                2. IndustriousLabRat*

                  Also a short curvy woman with a decidedly ‘I’m about to go out into the heaths and shoot grouse, why would I wear a long skirt?’ fashion sense… YES to all this. The lack of fit options for all figures isn’t just about size-inclusivity, which has been a topic more on the forefront of the conversation about fashion in the last few years, but also about options for body type as related to the gender of the wearer. I think sometimes of the big wall of Levis at the store, that were simply NUMBERED. Oh you wear a 501 fit? That’s cool… Just a description of the cut, without coming out and saying “tHiS iS fOr MaNs OnLy!”

                  There’s already so much advice on here for the LW but mine is to consider tailoring to not just make things fit perfectly (meet business standards, which they already seem very on top of), but also allow for nuance in presentation.

                  There’s a LOT to be said for finding business clothing in a basic style and cut that suits them well, and going to a tailor who is sensitive to the question of how the CUSTOMER wants the fit to present, rather than being stuck in a “This is how the suit was originally cut by the designer who intended it to be worn by one of the binary genders, so I’m going to make it fit how I assume it should fit based on what the tag says” approach to alterations. I know such tailors exist in large urban areas, and are as much loved for their ability to interpret customer requests with an understanding of where the request is coming from, as they are for their sewing skills.

                3. Jaybee*

                  Are you under the genuine impression that all AFAB people have bodies that fit the clothing cuts found in the women’s section?

                  I am glad to hear there’s stuff there that fits you, but I promise you, that is not the case for all ‘females’. Surely you have looked around you before and noticed that not all women have an hourglass figure.

                4. lolly pop*

                  This! I love poking through outdoorsy catalogs for comfortable sturdy clothes, but too often the women’s section is full of childlike colors and made from lighter fabric. The men’s section has more natural colors and usually more durable material, but I have curves and am short so men’s clothes look weird on me.

                5. Admin of Sys*

                  The problem with that argument is that it implies the clothes fits correctly for all women’s bodies and men’s bodies? And that’s definitely not true. I often have to shop in men’s departments and then sew things to be more femme presenting – because even though I’m a cis woman, I’m a cis woman with very wide shoulders, small breasts, and a pretty rectangular body shape.
                  Sure, there’s a ‘classic’ cut to men’s vs women’s clothing that assumes a bit more of a curve for women, but honestly, most off the rack clothing doesn’t fit more than a small percentage of people correctly. This is why people with the money to get their clothes tailored always look like they have such better wardrobes – even if it’s a cheap cotton blouse, it’s a cheap cotton blouse that’s cut correctly for the person wearing it.

                6. JustaTech*

                  For shape and fit: I was watching a video recently on how to adjust a Victorian men’s jacket pattern to fit you the individual and the person presenting the video (a woman) talked about how to adjust the shape of the jacket depending on “where you carry your weight” – high in the chest, in the stomach, in the back.
                  And she made the excellent point that a person who carries their weight high in the chest might have breasts, or might have large pectoral muscles – but the way you adjust the pattern would be the same.
                  It was a really interesting way of approaching clothing.

                7. Elizabeth I*

                  (Apparently I can’t nest any further, so I have to reply to my own comment).

                  Hi Astor, I’m a little confused by your comment “This [i.e. describing clothes by fit instead of by gender] makes it so that people can choose clothes that fit their body instead of that fit their gender”. My closing paragraph above actually talked about categorizing by sex, not by gender.

                  To connect the dots between what I quoted from you above to what I was saying, the point of categorizing clothing by sex is to enable people to “chose clothes that fit their body” – so it seems we share that goal. Secondary sex characteristics make the average male vs female body shaped differently, which *significantly* impacts the fit of many (or even most?) styles of clothes (especially tailored styles). Obviously there should be lots of other categorization options as well – like tall vs. short fit, curvy fit vs straight fit, and beyond, because there is a ton of variation among bodies – and people should be allowed to choose whatever clothing fits them best regardless of label or category (sometimes I have to buy a belt in the “boy’s” section because it fits better – nothing wrong with that!).

                  But starting from the biggest categorical differences in bodies across the human population seems like the easiest beginning place to find clothes that fit, doesn’t it? Why complicate things by pretending those differences don’t really matter in the way that clothes hang on our bodies? Having a category doesn’t mean people have to fit into the category like a box – it’s not a limitation, and it doesn’t have to be threatening. The category is just a tool to make finding what you’re looking for easier. And sex is the biggest, quickest differentiator in body shape across the human population.

                  To sum up, I agree that all people should be able to find clothes that fit great for their body and their style. I guess I just feel that you’re maybe throwing out the baby with the bathwater here?

                8. Dahlia*

                  Re Astor’s comment: There’s a company called Gender Free World that does just that, sells the same shirts in 4 or 5 different cuts. You pick the one that fits you best.

                9. Elizabeth I*

                  Replying to some comments below…

                  No, of course I’m not saying that every woman can find clothes that fit in the women’s section – as a woman, I can tell you that finding pants that fit me is nearly impossible. I also specifically mentioned in a previous comment that sometimes I have to buy belts from the boys section, despite being an adult woman (and there’s nothing wrong with that – it works for me). I think the explosion of fit styles (curvy, straight, tall, short, etc etc!) and custom tailored options available online in the last 10-20 years is awesome, and I would love to see even more of that happening.

                  What I’m saying is that human bodies have a LOT of variety. So it makes sense to have various categories to divide up the clothes, with the goal that we can ALL find something that fits off the rack. And the most significant categorical difference across the population of human bodies is male vs. female.

                  But we need LOTS more categories in addition to that, obviously, because there is tons of variation among male bodies and tons of variation among female bodies. For *most* (but not all) female bodies, clothes designed for a female body are going to generally fit better than clothes designed for a male body – especially when we add additional category options (tall, curvy, petite, etc).

                  But if you have a female body and a shirt that was designed for a male body fits you better, fantastic! Get that shirt. That is not a problem – because shirts don’t actually have a sex. It’s just a shirt, and if it looks awesome on you, then please, rock that shirt. I’m saying let’s have LOTS of categories and be FREE to choose between them what works for us – and I’m also saying that the male/female category is one of the primary categories for helping humans find clothing that fits their bodies.

                10. Sarita*

                  If you want to see example of a brand that has done this, look at Primary kids clothes. There are no boy styles and girl styles. They have “field shorts” and “gym shorts”- 2 different cuts, one usually aimed at girls, one usually aimed at boys. Both in a variety of colors. And often a model of both genders sporting the looks. No reason why adults clothing couldn’t be sold in a similar manner.

                11. Astor*

                  Elizabeth I: I don’t have the energy to reply to most of your points, which read to me as “I know people don’t like it if we reduce them to the sex they were assigned at birth, but I think it’s useful so I’m going to keep doing it”. That isn’t a new or unusual thought, it’s the majority opinion, and so if that’s not what you mean I strongly encourage you to start reading work by trans people across the spectrum until you start to recognize that the problems that they face are real.

                  But I will reply to your last sentence in your most recent reply, “I’m also saying that the male/female category is one of the primary categories for helping humans find clothing that fits their bodies.”

                  I hear what you’re saying and I disagree for two reasons:
                  1. Categorizing it in that way hurts people. It generally hurts trans people the most, which is reason enough to stop doing that, and it hurts all kinds of people who don’t like to choose clothes with a label that’s incorrect for them.
                  2. It’s using a proxy to categorize. It’s no more sensible to organize clothing by men/women when you really mean shape, than it is to put in your job listing “must have a reliable car” when you are really looking for is “must arrive reliably to open the office before 5am every day”.

                  It’s great that you don’t care about buying clothing that was labelled for another gender. Other people do. Personally, I think that the fact that it hurts trans people, who already deal with so many difficulties in our world, is reason enough to think of other ways to do it. But like so many things where kindness is the answer, it turns out that it’s also smart for other reasons that people have articulated.

                12. Kelly*

                  Sarita: Unlike adult men and women who on average have different body shapes/proportions, there aren’t any significant differences (besides genitals) between pre-pubescent boys and girls – that’s why it’s easier to make “gender neutral” clothing for kids than adults.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                When I said “I mean, if you’re non-binary and out and proud, whyever would you limit yourself to the clothes of only one gender, and why even would you limit yourself to only one gender at a time?” I was thinking specifically of OP who states that they are NB and because of that, they want to be able to dip into both the female and male dress codes.
                I’m not implying that NB people *have* to use elements from both if they don’t want to. Just that they should be able to!
                pfff I find it very frustrating, as an ally, to be subjected to this much nitpicking. I just wish everyone could dress as they please, and enjoy their sexuality as they please with consenting adults, and it’s nobody’s business what labels anyone might slap on anything.

                1. Very Social*

                  I was thinking specifically of OP who states that they are NB and because of that, they want to be able to dip into both the female and male dress codes.

                  Where are you seeing that? I see that there is explicitly no dress code that applies to them, and that’s the problem–not that their desire is to use both or either provided dress code.

            2. Wants Green Things*

              Because it actually has very little to do with presentation and everything to do with how they personally identify?

              Here’s a hint: you’re coming off as policing how people should dress based on their identity. Don’t do that.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                When I said “I mean, if you’re non-binary and out and proud, whyever would you limit yourself to the clothes of only one gender, and why even would you limit yourself to only one gender at a time?” I was talking about the OP, and “if that’s what you want” was basically to be understood. It’s not policing anyone at all and you need to not assume the worst of everyone.

            3. Allegra*

              Because nonbinary people have all different preferences in how we present ourselves, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re some mix of “male” and “female” (I like to describe myself as in a nebulous cloud between “female” and “the endless void of space”). I really like feminine clothes, though, and since I’m AFAB people assume I’m cis. Insisting that I add some measure of “masculine” clothing in the name of “androgyny” (which…usually means “a masculine presentation” anyway; pants and button-downs are seen as androgynous while skirts and blouses generally aren’t) is also proscribing how nonbinary people should dress and present themselves to be considered properly “nonbinary”. It’s internal, not external.

                1. Oryx*

                  Asking “If you’re non-binary and out and proud, whyever would you limit yourself to the clothes of only one gender” does come across as very heavily suggesting a nonbinary person should inherently want to mix clothing.

                2. Allegra*

                  Yes, as Oryx said — “I would imagine a “specifically non-binary outfit” to include elements of both male and female dress” and “if you’re non-binary and out and proud, whyever would you limit yourself to the clothes of only one gender” seem pretty clearly implying there’s only one way to dress, i.e. mixing “gendered” clothes, to signal that you’re nonbinary.

                3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Oryx, please stop trying to find fault with every comment written by anyone who identifies as not non-binary! Especially when the comment you’re taking offense at is a question!! I’m genuinely asking questions here and just getting a brush-off, it’s very frustrating for those of us who are trying to understand and it doesn’t do the NB community any good whatsoever.

                4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Thank you, yes indeed. Nothing like getting your head bitten off by the very people you’re trying to defend!

                5. Oryx*

                  RebelwithMouseyHair, I have left two comments regarding clothing. I have more comments about power point decks in this particular comment section than I do this topic. (Well, I suppose this comment here might bring it to a tie).

                  In no way am I finding “fault with every comment written by anyone who identifies as not non-binary.” Also, for what it’s worth, I am not nonbinary. I am cis.

                  I say this as gently as I can, but you have multiple people in this comment section telling you that you may want to rethink your phrasing of things when it comes to this topic. Rather than get defensive, maybe take a step back and sit with that for just a bit and ask yourself why your first instinct is to go on the offensive against people who are trying to help and educate you.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                When I said “I mean, if you’re non-binary and out and proud, whyever would you limit yourself to the clothes of only one gender, and why even would you limit yourself to only one gender at a time?” I was talking about the OP, and “if that’s what you want” was basically to be understood. Of course other NB people might not want to dip into both available dress codes, but that wouldn’t be a problem would it! The whole point here is that OP is writing in because they do want to dip into both dress codes.

            4. Oryx*

              First, clothing doesn’t have a gender. Certain articles of clothing might be cut for a particular body type, but language like “male and female dress” is only contributing to the problem the OP is facing. The OP does not neecd to mix and match because the clothes they choose to wear will be a nonbinary outfit because the OP is nonbinary. Assigning gender to an article of clothing and talking about limiting their clothes to only one gender is missing the point.

              Second, nonbinary does not equal androgynous. There are some nonbinary people who present very femme, just as there are some nonbinary people who present very masculine regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth. So just as the “limiting yourself to the clothes of only one gender” is problematic, so, too, is “why even would you limit yourself to only one gender at a time.” There is a local AFAB plus size curvy burlesque performer where I live who does high femme off stage and off: Big sparkly dresses and dramatic makeup. They are still nonbinary and in no way “limiting” themselves to a gender. They wear what they want to wear, just like the rest of us do.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Nobody here is suggesting that anyone should wear anything they don’t want to wear. However the OP in this case is someone who apparently does want to dip into both dress codes, and not necessarily on alternate days.

            5. Starbuck*

              Non-binary isn’t just a 50/50 combination of “male” and “female” styles…. that’s still thinking within the binary, lol

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                I never suggested that it is, I’m just saying that since OP seems to want to combine, that they should be allowed to.
                I can’t believe how much my supportive comment is getting nitpicked.

                1. SW*

                  It’s getting commented on by people because what you’re saying is what you think is supportive instead of actually *being* supportive. If you’re really on the side of nonbinary people, you’ll cool off, reread the comments, and see how the frame you’re approaching this from is wrong. If you just want to win brownie points with cis people who are similarly clueless, please by all means continue. But this isn’t a matter of people being touchy; it’s about how you think you’re coming across versus how you actually are.

        3. pancakes*

          In addition to what others have said, I want to point out, regarding “most of what you find in a quick image search,” that search results are not uniform for everyone. What you got vs. what I would get vs. any what other random commenter here would get could vary quite a bit, depending on location, search history, and various other factors.

        4. FridayFriyay*

          You seem well-intentioned, but I strongly urge you to reconsider your approach here. Googling something that is culturally charged like this and then judging a group of professionals based on their gender identity due to the results of that search is not a good look. The word “flamboyant” in particular is coded transphobic/homophobic in this context. You’ve made up a problem (LW doesn’t know how to dress professionally) and answered that problem without actually paying attention to the problem as presented, and your suggested solutions are clearly not sufficient to solve that problem. Nonbinary people aren’t stupid or unprofessional. Using stereotypes to suggest otherwise or saying “it’s not that complex” is neither helpful nor kind.

        5. Jaybee*

          Googling ‘nonbinary professional clothes’ is like googling ‘gay professional clothes’. You’re not going to get results that people actually wear to work, you’re going to get results that are either stock photos made intentionally flamboyant, fashion statements, or outfits that are noticeably out of the norm enough that someone else has labeled them nonbinary or gay.

        6. Hogwash*

          So this is… where do I even start?
          “he/she/they” It’s just “they.”
          The discomfort cis people feel about “feeling out the room” isn’t comparable.
          Reading as too goth is not the same as being NB, and being goth “quietly” is not the same as being in the closet.
          Never use the term flamboyant to describe a member of the LGBTQ community. Even if you mean well, just don’t.
          You’ve decided to educate the OP on how to dress vs. how to make their company more inclusive.

        7. Gerry Keay*

          I mean trying to define “nonbinary clothing” is in and of itself missing the point — nonbinary isn’t the third gender, and there’s no one way to look nonbinary.

          1. Snuck*

            I’m curious (genuinely!) and clearly out of my knowledge sphere here.

            If you say non binary is not the third gender (I assume that’s because it’s a spectrum?) then is there a third gender? If there’s not, then are there two genders (traditional male/female), or are there more? Or none? What could I read to understand more deeply on this?

            1. Allegra*

              Short answer: we may not really know how many genders there are, but there are definitely more than two!
              Longer answer: I personally think you can say there are infinite genders, because (and this is my opinion, but it feels in line with my experience/experiences of friends), especially for people who exist outside the male/female binary, no two people experience their gender, if they feel they have a gender, in the same way.

              Lots of cultures have “third” (or more!) gender categories that don’t flatten well into a Western/European gender binary, and there’s a huge variety of nonbinary genders. It can be helpful to think of gender as a spectrum rather than a list of discrete categories (or binary opposites). Sometimes even the idea of a spectrum can imply that there are opposite ends, though (because we usually see the color spectrum portrayed in a line)–there’s some great visualizations of gender as the big color picker cloud from Photoshop vs. a linear gradient.

              For resources, there’s an organization called Gender Spectrum (genderspectrum dot org) that has some really clear materials–I’d suggest checking out their “Understanding Gender” page. Other LGBTQ advocacy groups also usually have resources on this, too!

            2. TransmascJourno*

              Snuck, if you’re both curious and admit that you are not within your “knowledge sphere” with regards to what better my nonbinary is — and I truly mean this as kindly as possible— Google is free, as is Wikipedia. It’s not very fair to make trans/nonbinary people explain their existence to you. (As a nonbinary/trans person, I can say for certain that it’s exhausting!)

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                If it’s exhausting, please don’t feel obliged to provide an answer. Allegra provided some leads.
                I know how to google, I do it all the time for my job. And I know that it’s perfectly possible to find a bewildering number of websites all claiming different things so you end up not knowing who to trust.
                I asked a question elsewhere on this thread about the difference between genderfluid and NB. I got loads of answers from people, who didn’t agree with each other. I concluded that it doesn’t matter to me whether the person I’m talking to is GF or NB since I’m not looking to hook up with anyone – on or off that spectrum.

                1. Allegra*

                  I mean this as kindly as I can: I’m sure it’s not your intent, but your comments in response to a lot of nonbinary commenters on this post–to basically anyone not being infinitely understanding and patient–are coming across as scolding. Saying things like “I’m being supportive and you’re nitpicking”, especially telling people that “it doesn’t do the NB community any good” when we express any kind of negative emotion like frustration or tiredness with having to explain things, is not supportive allyship. It comes across as conditional allyship, a kind of “well, if you’re not nice to me about it, I’m not supporting you,” like we can only deserve support if we’re endlessly forgiving and patient.

                  We’re allowed to ask other people to be careful about their language and assumptions, especially in a post where we’re the topic of discussion. We’re allowed to be frustrated that information about nonbinary identities and how to discuss them has been in the cultural zeitgeist for years but people act like it’s brand new information every time it comes up. Some of us have the bandwidth to educate, like I did for that one comment above, but I’m uncomfortable with being held up as, like, a “good” nonbinary commenter. These are very personal conversations and it’s difficult to have emotional detachment from an issue that affects you so deeply. I hope that people’s advocacy for their nonbinary colleagues and friends isn’t conditional on if we’re always super nice about it when they get things wrong.

                2. TransmascJourno*

                  @Allegra—thank you so much for your reply here. You illustrated everything perfectly here. (Personally, the implication that I was a “bad” nonbinary commenter for expressing my frustration left a bad taste in my mouth—especially because another post I made somewhere else in the comments section was actually an attempt to help educate others.)

            3. tech services staff*

              I’ve got a library cataloging resource open right now that lists 85 non-Euro-American gender and sexual identities and I’ve already run into material dealing with genders not on that list.

              So. Yeah.

            4. marvin the paranoid android*

              There hasn’t been any grand decree from the Gender Senate (as far as I know) but I believe gender identity is really as personal and varied as any other kind of identity. To me, saying that there are two genders is similar to saying that there are two sets of ethics. Western culture likes to chop up all types of personal expression into pretty rigid boxes, but those are just artificial boundaries drawn around a wide range of modes of understanding and expressing yourself. Any kind of label or categorization is going to be variable and to some extent imperfect, but most of us who identify outside the gender binary try to find ways to describe our experience that feel right, or at least as close to right as possible.

              If you’re really used to thinking in terms of a gender binary, one exercise that can be illuminating is to try noticing the ways in which gender is socially enforced and people are punished for straying from gender categories–this letter is an example of that. I’d also recommend reading some personal essays written by nonbinary people–Ivan Coyote is a favourite of mine.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I’m not sure the commenter you’re replying to was even trying to define anything, just thinking her way through the problem and asking Google for a little help.

            1. TransmascJourno*

              In one comment, Snuck was advising LW2 to preemptively apologize for essentially being a distraction to others because of their gender presentation. That’s a lot more than thinking through things.

      2. Elle*

        I’m curious how a workplace with these overly specific dress codes would deal with an employee transitioning. At what point are they able to wear the clothes for their real gender vs the one they were assigned at birth? It seems like it could easily cross into some really discriminatory territory. Yikes.

    3. Batgirl*

      It was the “reported for wearing a man’s suit” that got me. I can’t really believe pant suits are off limits to everyone but men unless LW is writing from the fifties. Unless they’ve specified particular types of tailoring or fit? Or possibly it’s just the highly gendered list has made OP paranoid, which in itself is a huge problem with the list.

        1. Batgirl*

          Then the OP is cool as ice – this would definitely make me feel incredibly off balance and second guess everything.

            1. Minerva*

              That’s really upsetting, and an educational moment for me. :-(

              I am a cisgender woman who doesn’t wear makeup and enjoys playing with a masculine aesthetic (including suits, I just wore one to a wedding), but I am 100% cisgender. I had assumed that perhaps LW2 was AMAB and that “women’s” dress code would be the problematic part, not wearing a “men’s” suit.

              I am sorry the world sucks butts and it’s so hard to be yourself.

              1. Indigo a la mode*

                OP did point out that they don’t read as either male or female, nor could they pass for one or the other. So it sounds like either way they go, not only is it not true to themself but it also would draw scrutiny anyway. Just a bad policy all around.

              2. Fred*

                This may or may not apply to the OP, but I think a lot of people who are assigned female at birth or are perceived as such encounter a fuzzy line where they can be “not feminine” up to a point before they start encountering more stigma because they’re specifically perceived as “masculine.” That’s true for trans men, non-binary people, and also a lot of butch women. It’s not just having short hair or wearing suits or not wearing makeup as much as things like the specific cut of someone’s hair or clothes.

                When I was grappling with this more as a recent grad, I found a lot of advice (mostly aimed at butch women) about how to feminize your wardrobe just enough for interviews by doing things like wearing clothes from the women’s department or adding a necklace.

              3. why it gotta be this way*

                I’m AFAB and not officially out at work, but decided to start dressing more masculine when we went back to the office.

                There was a significant difference in how I was treated when I wore all men’s clothing / fashion choices and when I wore even one feminine-coded thing. It was very odd – even something like small earrings improved the way that I was treated, even if I was wearing an outfit that was purely masculine, with a masculine haircut and no makeup.

                I’m 100% certain that AMAB people have it worse – there is so little variation that is “allowed”, and I mostly have the freedom to add things to my wardrobe from the men’s department and have them go unnoticed. But there is an upper limit even for AFAB people :(

      1. Snuck*

        I think the OP going to HR and raising the question first will help if there’s a future issue. Also the fact that the company has a lot of inclusive language suggests that they want to be supportive. It might just be that the dress code has never had to handle someone not able to dress within the binary (it might have been written with a different issue in mind, maybe someone transgender, and experience with non-binary might be limited?). I’d just go back to HR and say “this is not quite inclusive enough, can we agree that I will wear within the bounds of both male and female at all times, and keep it professional. I will be mindful of planned events that require a higher level of professional attire and do my best to keep things simple on those days as I won’t want to distract attention from the main event of course! But generally I wear a mix of skirts, dresses, trousers, blazers and cardigans and these cross both lists of approved wear. I won’t wear shorts at all as they are not on either list. Ok?” And hopefully someone wise will nod and go “sure, we just haven’t really dug into this one yet, thanks for being on board with us!”.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          And, ideally, the lightbulb would go off for HR and they would just combine the gender specific lists into one big list of dress code compliant clothes for all.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            But, but, how will they police who gets to wear the makeup??

            Oh right, they can just, you know, take out the super gendered elements and go with the kind of dress code that says “Here’s some general guidelines for appropriate appearance at our level of formality.” Personally I like our dress code, which is (paraphrased) use your best judgment to come to work looking professional. Of course we’re all WFH right now but still.

          1. TechWorker*

            Yea if by ‘keep it simple’ you mean ‘conform to a binary’ that doesn’t really solve the problem!

          2. TransmascJourno*

            Yeah — as a nonbinary and transmasculine person myself, the idea that my very presence would somehow “take away” from a “main event” and that I should pre-emptively apologize for being a me-shaped me sounds pretty insulting to suggest. Going about my day in a professional capacity while being non-binary is not anywhere near congruous with attention-seeking behavior.

            1. TransmascJourno*

              So, I’ve been trying to come up with an analogy that involves nonbinary presentation and expression within a space that has a dress code — I’m not entirely sure this works, but I hope it might. It’s one that applies to my identities as trans/nonbinary and Jewish, so here it goes.

              In pre-COVID times, I’d sometimes go to a predominantly queer space for Shabbat morning services, where there are other nonbinary people. For services, I tend to wear a prayer shawl and a kippah. Let’s say on my right, there’s another nonbinary person who is wearing a kippah, but no prayer shawl. On my left, a third nonbinary person is wearing neither a prayer shawl nor a kippah. Our decision to wear both, one, or neither might reflect how we prefer to express our personal relationship to our innate identities, but they do not assign a value regarding if we are “more” or “less” Jewish, or “more” or “less” nonbinary. And across the board, we are still all dressed appropriately for the space that we are in.

        2. Dutchie*

          Well, your response wouldn’t solve the problem.

          Let’s use an analogy. Assume we live in a world where everyone is assumed to be a triangle or a square, but recently it has been acknowledged more that some people are actually circles.

          Now, a circle finds a new job at a company that has a list with appropriate clothing for both triangles and squares, but not for circles.

          What you now suggest is that the circle will go to the company and say: “Hey, I am not on the list, but I will try to pretend to be something with angles to not offend anyone!”

          Stepping out of the analogy there are two problems:
          1) LW mentioned there are almost no overlapping items, so staying within the bounds of both is (almost) impossible
          2) trans, but especially non-binary, people are still fighting for their right to be acknowledged and seen. Your solution is the same as a few decades ago advising an openly gay person to speak about their SO as their “roommate” to not rock the boat in their conservative family.

          This is not acceptable. The company claims to be committed to inclusivity. This is their moment to show it: they can find a temporary solution for LW and write a new, inclusive dresscode ASAP.

          1. Mimi*

            I think the “both” was “the union of the two sets” not “the intersection of the two sets.”

            But yes, there are still issues here.

            1. Dutchie*

              Not that I am aware , but I did study math and read the book a few years ago, so maybe subconsciously?

        3. Gerry Keay*

          Look Snuck, this is clearly not your lane, and the advice you’re giving is not helpful and borderline offensive. Nonbinary people aren’t flamboyant and distracting just be existing, and implying we are is really tired.

          1. TransmascJourno*

            Seconded. It’s honestly been a bit disappointing to read how some commenters can’t quite understand that nonbinary people (myself included) have an actual understanding of professional norms in the workplace, dress codes included. That, and that there’s an actual spectrum in how we express ourselves presentation-wise. The spectrum is kind of the point.

      2. tinybutfierce*

        It’s especially odd to me given that this is the one area the OP’s employer seems to be way behind the times. So, SO odd.

        1. pancakes*

          We don’t know if it is just this one area, but I’m not sure it’s so odd either way. A lot of employers know they should at least gesture at being more inclusive but don’t have a good sense of how to do so effectively, or what exactly needs to change in their existing policies.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I think the odd thing tinybutfierce might be referring to is that they have such a gendered dress code at all, not that they haven’t figured out nonbinary inclusion yet (which, yeah, not odd).

        2. Esmae*

          Some companies just don’t think to update their dress codes. I’ve worked places that appeared to have extremely strict, old-fashioned, highly gendered dress codes. In practice, nobody I interacted with on a daily basis actually cared as long as everyone looked “presentable.” I guess nobody in upper admin had felt like it was worth the effort of rewriting the dress code? I could definitely see a company understanding the basic idea of being more inclusive, but just not thinking about all the policies they actually need to update until it comes up for an employee.

          1. Nanani*

            Or maybe some higher up is really really hung up on some outdated norm but doesn’t give a fig about other aspects of inclusivity?

        3. marvin the paranoid android*

          I don’t actually see it as particularly odd. It’s pretty common for a company to outwardly present as inclusive but not actually live up to those principles. It’s also pretty common, unfortunately, for people or organizations to be really supportive about certain issues and regressive in other ways. And sometimes if the person/organization has a lot invested in the image of seeming progressive, they will get spectacularly defensive if they’re challenged about any harm they’re doing.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        There’s a difference between a men’s suit and a women’s pant suit. The silhouettes look quite different, and if OP’s company dress code is as strictly gendered as they’re describing, their concern is a valid one.

      4. Jaybee*

        Haha. I have definitely been specifically instructed to wear a woman’s suit for a work event before. There is a big difference, cut-wise, between a women’s pant suit and a men’s pant suit.

      5. GenderlessSloth*

        There are work places that can require women to wear heels and makeup, so requiring specific cuts of clothing is not that out of the realm of possibility. Also people get very weird about people who are not presenting gender in the way that is expected, like for example while trans bathroom laws mostly harm trans people, look up some stories of cis women who did not present as cis enough being harassed and kicked out of bathrooms as well. So it just takes one person deciding your clothes are too masc or femme for your perceived gender to cause issues and lean on the dress code as an excuse.

        I’m also nonbinary and ending up in workplace with a strict dress code is a huge fear of mine. Stricter dress codes are way more binary and moving away from your perceived gender is seen as less professional. Right now I’m in a place that is business casual so there’s more freedom to wear clothes that aren’t gendered and chose if I want to wear makeup, jewelry or none of that.

      6. I'm just here for the cats*

        I was thinking that maybe they would like to wear a tie with their suit but don’t feel like they could with a dress type of suit, because skirts ok for women and ties ok for men but cant blend the two

      7. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        Decades ago, well before I became aware that nonbinary was a thing, I got a talking-to from an HR person at an old job about needing to be more “tailored” when I was wearing button-down shirts that fit about like my masc-presenting coworkers’ shirts fit. So I could well believe that a “man’s” suit issue could come up.

        I remain pissed off about it to this day.

    4. Medusa*

      I’m also wondering about women who grow facial hair due to PCOS or a hormone imbalance. Are they required to shave? Gendered dress codes absolutely suck IMO and usually err on the side of being sexist, although I do find that they are a lot more restrictive for men.

      Just have one dress code so anyone can where what fits the dress code, whether they’re a man, woman, or NB.

      1. drinking Mello Yello*

        I’m agender and AFAB and have PCOS and I can guarantee I’d be required to shave because the facial hair I grow isn’t enough to be considered a “neat beard” or whatever the standard for facial hair is at places with stricter dress codes like this one seems to be. And if we’re dealing with a company that has a highly binary dress code, they’re most likely not going to want any sort of facial hair (esp. something that doesn’t look like an actual Style) on people that ~~look female~~.

        I’ve seen other people bring PCOS facial hair and highly gendered dress codes up in the comments of previous posts and trust me, the combination of facial hair and an appearance deemed “feminine” by society isn’t appreciated 99% of places, even if the facial hair comes from your own hormones going ham!

        (I shave it off anyway since it’s not great facial hair. :P )

        1. Bearded Lady*

          Yeah, I agree with Mello’s assessment here. My past two workplaces have been casual/inclusive enough that nobody’s cared (well, I did get one “helpful” anonymous note telling me how easy it is to have it removed — PSA: don’t do that) but I’m pretty sure it Would Not Fly in somewhere stricter. And the amount of work I’d have to do to make what I have neatly trimmed would almost certainly be more work than just going clean-shaven.

          Generally, one of my goals in life is to not work anywhere where it’s an issue. (But I’m going to have to start keeping after it more, since facial hair interferes with a good mask seal. That, or not go anywhere.)

          1. Rey*

            Yes, this. It’s been a while since I stopped shaving my face so this month I let it grow in to see where I’m at beard-wise. My natural facial hair is thick enough to be considered unprofessional for a feminine look, but not thick enough to be considered professional for a masculine look. It’s very frustrating because I do hate shaving it all the time. It’s my face. I would like my face to be able to exist as-is.

      2. Lyon*

        The fact that gendered dress codes are more restrictive for men is also an example of misogyny – femme presentation in men is considered highly unprofessional because femme-ness is devalued.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          This. It’s why in most offices, it’s not unprofessional for a woman NOT to wear lipstick, but a man who chose to do so would be looked at askance.

    5. Spicy Tuna*

      It seems odd that most workplaces are not allowed to have rules that don’t permit women to wear pants, but they ARE allowed to have rules that don’t permit men to wear dresses / skirts

      1. Lucy Skywalker*

        I think it’s that way because for decades, women have wanted to wear pants to work but men usually didn’t want to wear dresses. Now that things are changing, it’s time to re-evaluate our dress codes.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I’m having trouble picturing how this company could really be diverse and inclusive while also having a dress code like that. I can’t imagine any office that doesn’t have like specific uniforms prohibiting suits for women?? I have never seen explicitly separated dress codes like that (though I think there are probably a handful of lines within our dress code targeting things like “womens shoes” vs “mens shoes.”)

      I’m sure there are are places where the dress code just never gets updated so it’s stuck in the past while the actual people in the office have moved forward. I really hope this is something like that. Because I *definitely* can’t imagine that in any remotely diverse and inclusive office somebody would actively report someone for a dress code “violation” like wearing a skirt or a suit.

      I’m sorry this situation is so stressful for OP and I hope it all turns out to be No Big Deal in the end where they can just wear whatever they usually do.

      1. pancakes*

        I can easily imagine an office becoming gradually a bit more diverse and inclusive without having shed cis people who might report a nonbinary coworker for something like this along the way, but yeah, agreed on your last paragraph.

    7. Amethystmoon*

      These dress codes were likely written in the 80’s or earlier. Not saying it was a good thing even then, but there was a time when women weren’t allowed to wear pants to work, it had to be skirts or dresses.

      1. Hazel*

        At the company I was working for in the late ’90s, the dress code said women could only wear skirts/dresses, no pants. I assumed it was a leftover from the past that just hadn’t been changed, but nope! They pushed back when several employees pointed out that the dress code needed an update! It took a few weeks – and I’m sure some figurative smacks to the heads of the idiots trying to die on this hill – before it was changed. SMH

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Wow. I temped in the late 90’s during the summers while going to college, and no one batted an eye at me wearing slacks and a blouse to work. But maybe my state (in the upper Midwest) wasn’t all that conservative in the 90’s for dress.

    8. Nanani*

      Fully agree!
      Also makeup should never be mandatory, nor should heels and hose and so on. (I’ve never identified as a man I don’t know what articles are PITAs in that category)

      It -should- be a checklist of options not a set of hurdles to clear. But most of the time it isnt :/

      Good luck LW2, I hope HR sees the light once you point out the big flagrant problem with their inadequate response.

      1. JustaTech*

        My work used to have a hose requirement, but only if you were wearing a skirt and working on the floor with the clean room, and the stated reason was because they wanted to limit the amount of skin cells that were shed on that floor, so if you weren’t wearing pants you had to wear *something* to cover your legs. (I don’t remember if shorts were allowed.)

        We moved, so that requirement is long gone, not that I think anyone every actually did it in the first place.

  4. Bilateralrope*

    How is a company dress code with strict differences between what men and women are allowed to wear legal under laws against gender discrimination ?

    They have written down the fact that they treat people differently based on gender.

    If they are open about this discrimination, what are they hiding ?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So, legally it’s still generally legal (according to federal courts) to have different dress codes for men and women as long as one isn’t significantly more burdensome. It seems to be rooted in traditional ideas of what’s “suitable” business attire that vary by sex. I suspect we’ll see this change in coming years though.

      And of course, it completely ignores the existence of non-binary people.

      1. Middle Name Danger*

        They’re almost universally more burdensome on women even if the language says they can’t be.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yeah, about the only thing men are ever frustrated about is not being allowed to wear shorts, when women can wear mini-skirts.

          1. anonymous73*

            I had one of my team members sent home once because she was wearing a nice suit that happened to be paired with knee length shorts. She looked professional, but someone reported her and she had to go home and change. I get it, it was in the rules, but she looked more professional than half the people in the office. Shorts are generally more casual than a skirt, so it’s easier to just say “no shorts” instead of dealing with people wearing inappropriate (for work) types of shorts.

          2. TechWorker*

            + not being allowed to have long hair? Not being allowed to have bare arms? (Even very conservative dress codes a woman could probably get away with a cap sleeved shift dress whereas short sleeved shirts are generally read as pretty casual, at least IME).

            Not saying those things are worse than heels and make up… but I don’t think it’s true that conservative dress codes are great for men either and if you’re someone who runs hot you get more flexibility in female dress codes.

            1. Lacey*

              I’ve never worked anywhere that kept men from having short sleeves – a few with positions where you’d be expected to wear suits most of the time – but none where all men must cover their arms.

              1. Spicy Tuna*

                A short sleeve button down shirt paired with a tie should be illegal! LOL! I worked in an office once where one guy did that all summer.

              2. TechWorker*

                I also haven’t worked anywhere where short sleeves weren’t allowed tho tbh I also cannot remember any of the senior men ever wearing short sleeve shirts? In my fairly casual office women are a-ok to wear sleeveless tops/dresses (which I know Alison has opinions on) and men are most definitely not.

              3. Phony Genius*

                I almost never wear short sleeves. I do not like seeing arm hair on anybody, and I’m not going to subject anybody else to mine. I would welcome such a rule. (For reference, I am male.)

                1. ThatGirl*

                  I mean, you realize that’s your peculiarity, right? Short sleeves are not unprofessional, and offices should not be kept so cold that it’s uncomfortable to wear them, especially in warmer weather and climates.

                2. Phony Genius*

                  I know that my opinion differs from society’s norms, but I also believe that society can sometimes be wrong.

                  Also, I do not support enforcing dress codes through climate control. (Full disclosure: I am currently in an office where the heat is grossly inadequate.)

            2. anonymous73*

              Yes, I think women can definitely get away with more than men in the dress code area. I worked for a bank in the early 00s, so we were business. Men had to wear suits. If women wore skirts you had to wear pantyhose. I would have a pretty good tan in the summer, so I would wear skirts with no pantyhose. Nobody said a word. And this was a place where I wore sneakers for a few days after having minor foot surgery and one of the managers said something to my boss.

              1. Spearmint*

                The way I think about it is women have far more options in professional dress but it’s also (often) more laborious to look professional for women than men.

                1. Metadata minion*

                  Yeah, frequently men’s dress codes have a few options, but it’s easy to find one that will be correct in most situations, while women’s dress codes have many options, but most of them have a chance of being undefinably Wrong.

                2. Littorally*

                  Yeah, that would be how I’d formulate it too, having been on both sides of the office dress code.

                  When I was presenting as a woman, my work wardrobe was a lot more varied and had more flexibility, but it took a lot of effort and putting together an outfit for the day and getting dressed took time. As a man, my work wardrobe is much smaller and more limited, but it’s also extremely low-effort and I can go from “okay time to get dressed” to walking out the door in 10 minutes, and be at a comparable level of formality.

                3. Nesprin*

                  For example a man can have one suit appropriate for an interview, a funeral, and a wedding. Dresses/outfits for women would code differently for those three events.

              2. Nanani*

                “get away with” my ass

                It’s not a privilege to have “be decorative” a prerequisite to earning a living.

          3. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I had a cis male coworker who was frustrated that women were allowed to wear makeup and men weren’t. He had frequent acne flare ups and made the point that when his cis woman coworkers were having a breakout, they could use concealer and foundation to make it less noticeable while men didn’t have that option under our dress code.

        2. doreen*

          I’m sure they are sometimes more burdensome on women – but I’m not so sure it’s almost universal , at least not in the official dress code as opposed to people’s expectations. The official dress codes in the places where I have worked for the last 40 years have had only minor differences between the dress codes for men and women – in certain situations* , men were expected to wear a tie and/or jacket and women were permitted to wear dresses and skirts. There was no “women but not men can wear shorts/sandals/earrings” or ” Women can wear T-shirt style shirts but men cannot” ( the current dress code prohibits “undergarment type T shirts” for everyone) and while I know there are places where women are actually required to wear make-up, jewelry, etc I’ve never known of anyone who worked with that sort of requirement.

          * Depended on your position and what you were doing that day – even someone who normally wore jeans and sneakers to work might be required to dress differnetly for a meeting etc.

        3. Elizabeth I*

          I think traditional dress codes are more strict on men in terms of the clothing they are allowed to wear – while men could be stuck wearing a suit and tie everything day, women can usually get away with wearing a very nice looking stretchy black dress that’s cheaper than a suit, feels as comfy as pajamas, and is machine washable.

          However, when it comes to the details of one’s appearance, that’s where women might be more burdened depending on how the dress code is written. If full makeup, nail polish, high heels, and nicely styled hair are required of women, that’s going to be much more burdensome for them than asking the men to just be clean shaven with short hair and neat nails.

        4. AnotherSarah*

          I’m not sure I agree about gendered dress codes being more burdensome on women. I find that (and I’m a cis woman fwiw) I’m allowed much more freedom in the range of butch-femme I can present. It’s not the whole range, but I can show up in a pants suit and buzz cut without issue. My cis male colleagues cannot show up in a skirt suit and longer hair.

      2. Curious*

        I wish that Nolo article had a date – and I note that it refers to Price Waterhouse but not the 2020 Bostock case. The latter has some helpful language pointing out that Title VII proscribes discriminating against men for not being sufficiently masculine and women for not being sufficiently feminine. With that, I have doubts that these gendered dress codes can long survive.

        1. Kelly*

          IIRC the 2020 case did not overturn gendered dress codes specifically – rather it clarified that “sex” or “gender” for this purpose means how you identify/present (and not your AGAB, genitals, etc.). The case involved a binary transwoman, and she won (posthumously, as she died before SCOTUS made their ruling) the right as someone who presented as female to dress like other females (specifically to wear the female as opposed to the male uniform). Favorable ruling if you present within the binary (but not your AGAB), but it still leaves non-binary employees (without state/local protections) in legal purgatory.

      3. FridayFriyay*

        I’m curious whether the more recent standards around transgender nondiscrimination in employment would apply to nonbinary workers as well (they logically should, but courts don’t always get this stuff right.) It seems to me it might make a highly (binary) gendered dress code with little overlap between allowable categories as described in the letter legally problematic.

      4. Dragonfly7*

        Bilateralrope’s question was the first thing that came to mind for me. How is it legal if the person is being held to a particular gender expression based on the person’s perceived sex?

      5. Trans inclusion nerd*

        Allison, I’d bet you anything that Nolo article was written pre-Bostock (and the linked decision for EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc). The legal situation with gendered dress codes is at the very least much more complex after those SCOTUS decisions, especially when it comes to how they exclude non-binary people. It’s totally plausible to argue that requiring a trans woman to adhere to the women’s dress code is fine under Bostock (but of course not legal to require her to adhere to the men’s dress code), but a situation like LW2’s where there isn’t a policy option that’s consistent with their gender identity creates problems in a post-Bostock landscape. And obviously was an ethical problem and set a bad tone pre-Bostock too, but I digress. Also worth noting that some states and municipalities have local laws that prohibit gendered dress codes as well, and many employers are confused about this.

  5. Ashkela*

    I mean, isn’t the ‘men aren’t allowed to wear makeup’ thing actively discriminatory and therefore illegal? It’s setting requirements based around gender. Or am I running too far with it and it’s just ‘wow this place sucks for lack of ACTUAL inclusivity and equality’. (LW2, my heart goes out to you.)

    1. Another enby*

      Smush the dress codes together and make them more inclusive. You’re not going to suddenly end up with your entire workforce of men coming in with full make-up or wearing dresses, because people will still wear what they feel smart / confident in, right? All the women aren’t going to suddenly start wearing ties. A large chunk of people will continue to wear what they’ve always worn (hello to the cis people who’ve never thought about this stuff <3) and anyone who's not cis will be able to choose from the new, larger list and build their own smart/professional wardrobe.

      My heart also goes out to LW2 and I hope this gets resolved so you can wear fun/smart/professional-looking stuff to your office.

    2. anonymous73*

      I can’t speak to the legality of it, but for a company that claims to be inclusive, their dress code is not. If they really want to be inclusive, they need to have 2 lists – 1 for what is acceptable to wear and 1 for what isn’t acceptable to wear. It’s not that difficult.

  6. Cancel Wagner 2K22*

    Interesting experience with this topic:

    I used to work in orchestra administration (all of the people who work at an orchestra who aren’t musicians, like fundraisers, marketers, production staff, etc.) The orchestral world is embarrassingly behind on some gendered things, one of those being dress codes – there was a debate in 2018 (!!!!!) at the New York Philharmonic about women being permitted to wear pants onstage for performances rather than long black skirts or dresses.

    At my orchestra, several staffers (myself included) and several musicians banded together to challenge the dress code and push for more inclusive policy. We won!! Now all gendered language has been removed from the musicians’ contract. Anyone can choose to wear skirts, dresses, pants, or tuxedos, as long as they meet the guidelines set out in the contract. I got to accompany a musician friend out to get fitted for her first tux. :)

    If you’re in a position with an org (relatively senior staffer, management, or anyone not as much at risk as newer or junior staffers) please pay attention to policies like this, even if they don’t affect you directly! It’s always worth having the conversation, and in a lot of cases it’s just that no one in HR has even thought about it (still crappy, but better than any malicious intent.)

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      This is such a great example about the effectiveness of collective action, and the significance of how being in a leadership role can make a difference for being inclusive. Well done, and inspiring!

      1. Cancel Wagner 2K22*

        Thank you!! I think the best part is that none of the staff or musicians who approached the issue were in any kind of leadership position, but there were enough of us talking about it that we got one great manager in our corner, and then it was all just kind of easier from there. Collective action is the BEST and I think a lot of people are learning that during the pandemic!

        1. TransmascJourno*

          I tried to come up with an analogy re: LW2 above, but your example is not only much better in conversation with the original letter, but such a great one with a great ending! Also — LOVE the username!

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Wow, in 2018? Such a ridiculous debate, I’m glad that you and your colleagues were able to get the rule changed. Gendered dress codes need to go the way of the dinosaurs.

      1. Mannequin*

        I’ve been saying this for 40+ years and dang, does it feel good to see society starting to come around!

      2. Cancel Wagner 2K22*

        In 2018, in one of North America’s top five orchestras!!! You’d really hope they’d be a leader in these areas, but no.

        Orchestras have some fascinating stuff going on these days to promote diversity, like blind auditions. But the progress is SO slow and many orchestras still suffer from Old White Guy syndrome…

      3. Bearded Lady*

        Which is particularly ridiculous because playing a cello in a skirt requires a skirt significantly fuller than most highly-professional-looking skirts are.

    3. It's Growing!*

      Female cello players were required to wear skirts or dresses? Wow, awkward. Think how voluminous that skirt or dress would need to be to get your knees around a cello.

      1. Kora*

        I went through the whole of my school career (90s to early 2000s) playing cello in a long skirt to comply with the uniform and I can assure you it suuucked. Cumbersome as heck. They finally changed the requirement the year after I left, and coming back to see a concert there and seeing the cellists in trousers really felt like a profound change.

      2. Medusa*

        Oh back when I was in high school (so coming up on 20 years ago), we were required to wear skirts/dresses for regional competitions. I didn’t give a shit and just wore black pants, and I would’ve done the same if I had pursued music professionally because FU, that’s why.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        I remember this being an issue when I was in high school. And that was a loooong time ago. It absolutely should not be an issue now.

      4. wittyrepartee*

        I think there were like- special split skirts made just for this reason, with pants on the inside.

    4. Nikki*

      This is interesting to me because I play in a symphony orchestra and, while the dress code is gendered, it’s always struck me as the one dress code I have to follow where the women’s code is less restrictive than the men’s. Men are required to wear tuxedos and women wear all black. Women’s clothes must cover wrists and ankles but beyond those requirements there are no restrictions. Most women in the orchestra wear a sweater and dress pants and seem much more comfortable than the men in their tuxes.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I think men’s dress code’s (including the unspoken ones) are generally more restrictive than womens’s? Unless it’s so old fashioned as to *require* heels, hose, makeup or skirts.
        *women’s dress codes limit the length of skirt. Men’s simply forbid skirts and require trousers down to the ankle.
        *women’s dress codes limit the amount of chest showing. Men wear crew necks, or maybe unbutton the top button.
        *women can wear short sleeves, or if more casual sleeveless. Men wear long sleeves, or if more casual short sleeves.
        *women can wear makeup. Men can’t. Maybe if it’s invisible
        *women can wear any color they want. Men avoid several color ranges, and get more muted in tone the more formal they get. They also don’t have loud patterns, unless it’s on a tie or a Hawaiian shirt. Men’s trousers are always neutral in color.
        *women (sometimes) have to cover their buts if they wear leggings. Men can’t wear leggings.

        Women’s dress codes offer way more ways to mess things up, but that’s largely because they offer more ways to dress in the first place.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          Men’s fashion is typically narrower than women’s. I’ve never seen a dress code that allowed patterned pants for women but forbade them for men. So there are some chicken-egg areas in what’s actually in a dress code vs what men typically wear/have available to purchase.

          Women’s dress codes are much more difficult to navigate, not because they offer more options, but because they are so much more about policing the body. Your example about how much “chest” a woman is allowed to show is a great example. It’s going to be impossible to apply consistently across different bodies, and is all about the “inappropriateness” of women’s breasts.

        2. Yorick*

          This list is silly. Dress codes don’t state that men can’t wear any color. They don’t say men can’t wear loud patterns. They don’t say men must wear crew neck shirts. They typically don’t specify that men must wear long sleeves. Neither gender is allowed to wear shorts. Dress codes usually don’t allow leggings to be worn as pants, even with a long shirt.

          It’s women’s FASHION that offers more things, which you then have to navigate the dress code to determine if it’s ok. Men’s fashion pretty much only offers things that fit a dress code or are obviously too casual to wear to the office.

    5. Nanani*

      It’s not fluffy, it’s two different conversations.

      Some commenters have steered it into complaining about one binary vs another but the actual letter is about -gendering- not about discriminating against one binary sex.

      So you’re not wrong that many dress codes are sexist, but that’s not what letter 2 is about. They aren’t a woman, after all.

    6. OyHiOh*

      As a kid growing up in the youth symphony world, the skirts/dresses for women rule sorta kinda made sense if you squinted hard enough, right up until I started hanging out with the young women who played cello and double base. And then the friend of mine who played harp quite seriously (Royal Conservatory of Music is on her CV).
      She started wearing split skirts to meet dress code requirements and have enough room to work with her instrument. Regardless of gender, bottoms with leg holes make much more sense when some instruments and since both men and women play in orchestras, I’ve long thought that musicians should wear what they like and feels comfortable as long as it otherwise meets the guidelines.

    7. Selina Luna*

      I play the oboe in a local “community” band that doesn’t have any stringed instruments, but if a woman is playing something like cello or upright bass, wouldn’t a skirt be a gigantic pain in the ass? Whenever I’ve seen those played, they’re always held between the legs…

    8. marvin the paranoid android*

      Ugh, as a trans and nonbinary person, I really used to hate the highly gendered performance clothing we were expected to wear for amateur choir performances (back in the days when choirs were less deadly). What annoyed me the most was that I would always have to go out and buy something just for the one performance and immediately donate it because the director thought it would be fun to have different colour-matched accessories for every single performance. Sorry, not everyone has an endless collection of jewellery and flowy scarves in every colour. I’m sure the audience of five people would be devastated if we didn’t all match.

  7. nnn*

    I’m wondering if it might be equally effective or even more effective for #2 to simply go about wearing things from both “sides” of the dress code and, if asked, respond with a bright and cheerful “I’m non-binary!” (Same tone and delivery as if the dress code didn’t mention anything either way about wearing rings, and you were wearing your wedding ring.)

    As though of course HR meant it when they assured you there’d be no issues with you being non-binary in the workplace, of course they didn’t mean you should have to choose a single gender to perform. Maybe they expressed themselves imperfectly – happens to all of us when speaking off the cuff! – but surely they meant the reasonable interpretation and not the unreasonable interpretation!

    The advantage of this approach it avoids giving the first impression of Person Who Makes A Big Deal Out Of Things (which may or may not be how it comes across if you were to go back to HR for clarification). It does, however, run the risk of giving the first impression of Person Who Gets The Dress Code Wrong.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I did wonder if it’s possible that when the HR rep said “pick whichever dress code works best for you,” they meant “pick whichever dress code works best for you on any given day“… and yeah, an option is to just decide that must be how they meant it.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Honestly, that’s how I understood it when I read the letter, so that would be an option but then it depends how comfortable LW is with it.

      2. Everyone looks good in well done make up*

        As I commented below though, that still doesn’t allow #2 to wear makeup on days they wear a tie, which might not be an acceptable compromise for them. The conversation might still have to happen even if that was the intent.

        1. Green great dragon*

          I’d be tempted to interpret it as ‘pick whatever dress code works for you’ (ie just make sure everything you wear is in one of the codes), and use the cheerful ‘I’m non-binary’ as required.

          The ‘I don’t want to get in trouble because someone has reported me’ struck me as a bit odd to be honest – I’m sure there are offices with this sort of atmosphere, but I’d’ve thought in most reasonably inclusive and sane offices, colleagues wouldn’t be rushing to report each other for dress code breaches, and *if* anyone did and *if* it didn’t get shut down immediately by HR or LWs manager, at worst it would be a discussion with LW about dress codes as a non-binary person, not ‘in trouble’. Can understand if LW would rather have a clear statement up front to put their mind at rest, of course.

          1. Panda (she/her)*

            There are a lot of bigoted, transphobic people out there, and some of them are hiding in what appear to be inclusive workplaces. I don’t think it’s odd at all for the OP to be concerned about being reported – there’s likely *someone* in their workplace who has an issue with someone wearing a suit and makeup or someone who doesn’t appear female wearing a skirt.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yeah I can imagine someone grumbling about the diversity and inclusivity (like the guy who complained that the women’s empowerment courses excluded men), and then realising that they’d forgotten to amend the dress code, and revelling in a “gotcha” moment. But yes, if inclusivity is not just a cosmetic declaration to look PC, they’ll simply amend the dress code so that anyone on the lgbt+ rainbow can fit in.

            2. ecnaseener*

              This. A “reasonably inclusive” workplace, ie where when asked leadership says they welcome trans people (or really any marginalized population) but doesn’t really go beyond that, is almost certainly still going to have some bigots working there.

            3. FridayFriyay*

              This. Plus given HR’s approach to the dress code and to the questions about how to apply the dress code as a nonbinary person doesn’t exactly inspire strong confidence that this sort of transphobic meddling will be appropriately shut down.

            4. Zephy*

              I mean, we had a letter here about someone being formally disciplined for making a joke about using a copy machine. Surely there’s more than just the one busybody in the world who would take time out of their day and their boss’s day and HR’s day to make the fact that OP decided to wear a skirt into a Problem.

            5. Your Friendly Neighborhood Enby*

              This. I work in tech, at a company that prides itself on diversity, and I haven’t come out because I haven’t felt safe. A coworker told an anti-trans joke in the off-topic Slack channel and nobody batted an eye. Some folks even laughed. There were a few other things but the joke was what slammed the lock home on my closet.

          2. Jaybee*

            I work in a reasonably sane and inclusive office in a very liberal area of the country. HR put up ‘all gender’ signs on the single-use bathrooms in the office and within a day I discovered that many of my usually sane and inclusive coworkers are closet transphobes. The whispering! The sneering!

            One woman threatened to call security if she ever ‘saw a man in the restroom with her’. Again, these were the SINGLE USE RESTROOMS that got the all-gendrr labels. (They previously weren’t labeled as restrooms at all, so people had trouble finding them.) The multi-stall restrooms are still gendered. But these signs reminded everyone that trans people exist, and it was like poking a hornet’s nest.

            1. Zephy*

              These people probably never even consider that they have a *whispers* gender neutral bathroom in their OWN HOUSE, and if the straight cis women are married, they might even sometimes have a man in there with them!!! Horror!!!

          3. GenderlessSloth*

            The fear of being reported really isn’t that odd. People having complaints being immediately shut down by HR and LW’s manager relies on consistently having everyone who are in those roles aware they’re nonbinary and to be fully supportive. What if LW’s manager is fine with it but their grandboss is completely unaware and someone complains to them? What if they get a new manager or new HR person?

            This is a very real and rational fear for someone to have and wanting an official policy in writing that can protect them from transphobia is a smart move. This will protect them from possible firing for “continually breaking dress code” if someone does have an issue.

          4. Yorick*

            I think this is the thing to do. If you wear a tie and makeup tomorrow, both of those are allowed so that should be fine. They should definitely change the dress code to explicitly allow those things to be used together. For now I’d proceed with just making sure my clothing is allowed on one or the other of the dress codes.

        2. Gerry Keay*

          Right. Some nonbinary people are genderfluid, but definitely not all. Dress like a guy one day and dress like a girl the next day would NOT be a solution for me — I’d be feeling dysphoric from both sides.

      3. londonedit*

        Yeah, reading that I thought ‘well maybe they meant just pick anything from the dress code that works for you’ rather than ‘just pick either the men’s or the women’s and stick to that’. I hope that’s what they meant, anyway.

        1. sunglass*

          I was wondering if HR meant to pick things that are from either dresscode and mix-and-match, so the LW could wear both a skirt and a tie, for example, but they couldn’t wear jeans (just a guess) or anything that didn’t appear in *either* list. But it would be good to both get some clarity on this and point out that the rigid binary nature of the dresscode is inherently noninclusive. If the workplace has shown in other ways that they are aiming for greater inclusivity and have otherwise good D&I policies then hopefully they would be receptive.

          1. londonedit*

            I agree, they should point out that the wording and the binary dress codes are going to cause confusion for anyone non-binary. I’d hope they meant ‘as long as it’s on one of the dress codes, it’s fine for you to wear it’ but the fact that we’re all having this conversation is proof that it isn’t clear, and it should be clear.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            “whichever works best” doesn’t imply mixing and matching. The best it can mean is that OP can go full-on masculine one day and all-out feminine the next.

            (And I’m laughing here because my 70s school uniform was skirt and tie)

            1. Yorick*

              I can see wording it that way by mistake when I really meant to pick out things from the dress codes that you feel comfortable wearing. OP can ask for more clarification or go higher up in HR, and can suggest using a combined list of allowed dress (or suggest whatever option works for them).

      4. turquoisecow*

        I understood it to mean that any of the allowable items on either list are okay for OP, but I guess it’s a good idea to get clarification and in any case the separate lists are still ridiculous and should be combined.

    2. Biscotti*

      I agree I read it as just pick from the dress code the sides don’t matter. I also don’t think escalating it before your first day is a good way to start a new job.

    3. Lucy Skywalker*

      What about just wearing things that are typically accepted for both men and women, such as a button-down tailored shirt and a pair of khakis?

  8. Hazel*

    #3: This happens in my office sometimes. If someone’s response didn’t get included in the version that everyone seems to be replying to, that person usually replies to the most recent response and mentions that what they wrote earlier didn’t get included (because of simultaneous replies), and here’s what they wanted to say…yada yada

    1. Green great dragon*

      If it’s more senior people, might be one to raise with your manager – if they feel it would come better from Manager to do the ‘as Jerome said earlier, …’ you could ask them to keep an eye out for it. Assuming they’re also on the chains.

    2. GlitsyGus*

      This happened a lot in my last job as well because two or three people would be composing responses at the same time. One of the higher-level responses became “the thread” and the conversation went from there. Those of us who had our replies drop off the thread would save our email reply and add it as an attachment to the main thread. It’s a little annoying but takes less time than re-typing your initial response.

  9. It's not Monday*

    Letter Writer #3, I sympathize with this!

    I am often on email threads where a reply will be made to a message “upstream” of my reply. That is usually responding to someone higher status (manager, etc). But to add to the aggravation they will sometimes use data from my reply! So it’s clear they read my message but chose to answer the other person and use my suggestions/data. “Of course, we know the teapot glaze temperature changed in August.”

    I have clearly told the person doing this that (1) he was doing it, (2) he was using my answers which looked like his own because he circumvented my reply, and (3) this was undermining and I need it to stop. Yup, that didn’t work.

    It’s especially aggravating because this person is a close colleague, we work well together, and I’m pretty sure he isn’t intending to gain by his actions.

    1. pancakes*

      If you’re otherwise sure he isn’t intending to gain by this, are you sure he’s depicting your answers as his own rather than building on what you’ve said? If your email is still part of the long chain of emails and he refers to information in it in a subsequent email of his own, it seems that he is presuming that whoever is reading his emails has read yours as well. In other words, is it possible that his emails are meant to be an “and” rather than a “but”? Sorry if I’m missing something; I don’t tend to encounter “upstream” in this context.

      1. Mimi*

        The “upstream” here means that we have an email thread:
        Email 1 John
        Email 2 June replies to John
        Email 3 Chris replies to June
        Email 4 Taylor replies to John’s original (“upstream”) email, including points from June and Chris (not attributed).
        John replies to Taylor, and the email thread continues.

        Depending on your email client, June and Chris’s replies may show up when viewing the email, but if you look at the replies in the email, you just see John and then Taylor. And anyone who’s catching up by just reading the thread from that last email wouldn’t know that June and Christ contributed at all.

        1. pancakes*

          Got it. This seems like a couple problems bundled together rather than just the one coworker, including 1) using an email client that collapses emails this way, and 2) people opting to read just the last couple emails, and/or starting at the end of the discussion rather than the beginning.

    2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      I will say I find outlook fairly confusing and I have probably accidentally replied to the wrong message at some point without meaning to

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        I did it a lot for a while because I generally come in and work my email from the bottom up. I’ve had to train myself to at least skim newest to oldest before setting down to work through the pile in order to avoid these situations.

      2. Cold Fish*

        I don’t know about anyone else out there but I find email strings incredibly confusing to read. I may be unintentionally guilty of this behavior because I will often go back a couple of emails to get rid of A’s response of “I don’t have an opinion” followed by B’s “I don’t know, whatever you guys decide.” followed by C’s “Yeah, whatever works for you guys.” (On an email with A, B, C and Me and I don’t have the authority to make the decision. grrr) just to make the chain simpler to figure out X months in the future.

        It’s common for me to get added late to a long string email with a “Hey Cold can you take care of this. Thanks!” that then requires me to read thru the entire string to figure out what I should be doing. For all out there DON’T DO THIS. It is annoying as hell, I’m often missing info from a one-off reply that is not included in the string, and takes me twice as long to figure out what to do as it would for you to just summarize in a new email asking me to do X.

      3. Hazel*

        It was a very happy day when I discovered “Clean Up Folder & Subfolders” in Outlook! It gets rid of the individual emails that are part of a thread, so you can open the most recent one and read from the bottom to get all of the info. If there are “orphaned” emails like the OP described, those are NOT removed from the inbox. Emails with attachments are also not removed. (The removed emails are not deleted – they’re moved to a “Cleaned-up Items” folder.) I highly recommend!

    3. sb51*

      Ugh. I’ve been known to reply upstream, but if I’m pulling something from downstream I am always very careful to credit. (This generally happens when simultaneously two different people added some others into the thread for their input, but with different sets, and the threads are threatening to diverge.)

    4. SnappinTerrapin*

      Maybe I expect too much from my colleagues, but I assume everyone in the thread has read the entire thread, and that they appreciate the opportunity to address an issue asynchronously instead of having a meeting.

      That being the case, I may or may not say “as Jane mentioned above” when incorporating one or more of Jane’s points into my analysis of the situation. I think underlining the colleague’s contribution is a good idea, but sometimes it gets omitted in favor of brevity.

      Having said that, if a colleague mentioned feeling unheard, I think I would be more conscientious about flagging their contribution.

      And I recognize that there are people who deliberately try to gain credit for others’ ideas. That’s where an email chain comes in handy. For my part, I’m generally more concerned with the outcome than with credit, and have been amused a few times to see rivals advocating the outcome I recommend and persuading themselves that it was their own idea. (NOT implying that everyone should take that position, but it has worked for me.)

  10. Heidi*

    Letter 3 makes me realize how often my colleagues do not make a distinction between the people in the “To” field and the people in the “CC” field. I think a lot of them are finding an email that includes all the people we want to send to and replying all with a new subject without rearranging the fields. Then they write, “Hi Jane,” to make sure Jane knows it’s for her.

    Even if someone doesn’t respond to the latest email in the conversation, I still read the other emails in the conversation. I don’t just rely on the letter chain in the body of the emails, which I guess is what LW3’s team is doing.

    1. TechWorker*

      Meh I’m not sure – this happens a lot at my workplace and if I’m the one who needs to respond to the thread, I’ll explicitly add any responses that got missed back in. But if I’ve just been asked a quick direct question, I’d probably just reply to that even if there are other out of order responses. I’m not sure it’s the case that replying to someone else’s ‘wrong’ order reply means you’ve not read everything on the whole thread; it might just be that the other response isn’t critical to add back in…

  11. Everyone looks good in well done make up*

    #2, do you know whether the HR person meant that you can pick between dress codes daily but you can’t mix and match? As in, no wearing makeup on a day when you’re wearing a tie, that sort of thing? I’m not saying that that’s the right approach for them to take, but I think it’s important context for when you go back and talk to them. If they meant “Don’t mix and match the rule sets” that’s going to be a different conversation to if they meant “You have to pick a gender to dress up as and stick with it while you work for us”. Option #2 is potentially going to require a lot more education than option #1.

    I have hated gendered dress codes since primary school and I’m AFAB female-presenting. So it’s not even a non-binary thing, it’s just a stupid rule. We’ve unlocked pants for all. Next step skirts and make up! I’m cheering for you all the way.

    1. Saraquill*

      When I was in middle school, dress codes became a hot button issue. A detail that still annoys me about those codes were pants for boys, while girls had the option of skirts or pants. I was and still am pretty femme, the pants option for girls read as “we know dressing femme is gross, so we’re giving girls an out.”

      Now that I’m older and more worldly, I’m bothered such codes don’t give other genders the joy of wearing skirts. To say nothing of heritage clothes which include skirts for other genders.

      1. Lexie*

        I worked at a place when they completely revamped the dress code. When I started shorts were allowed for anyone. Then it was changed to men had to wear slacks and women could wear slacks, dresses, skirts, or capri pants. One of the men asked if they could wear nice shorts (not denim or cargo style) since women had hot weather clothing options the men didn’t have. The response was to remove capri pants from the women’s list rather than give the men shorts (or skirts/dresses).

        1. EmKay*

          “The response was to remove capri pants from the women’s list rather than give the men shorts (or skirts/dresses).”

          now isn’t that just typical? ugh

      2. Jessica Ganschen*

        I recall a few years ago, there was a story about some male Swedish train conductors wearing skirts during the summer, as their dress code didn’t permit shorts. The company explicitly said, “Yep, they’re allowed to do that,” and also changed the dress code awhile later so that shorts were permitted for everyone, but I would presume (and hope) that anyone is also still allowed to wear a skirt if they want. (Link to a BBC article in a separate comment.)

      3. Nancy*

        Dress codes allowing both skirts and pants for girls has nothing to do with them thinking “dressing femme is gross.”

    2. Windchime*

      I was in elementary school many, many years ago and girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. This was in an area where it got COLD during the winter (below zero degrees F). During those super cold days, they reluctantly allowed us to wear pants under our skirts. I was very relieved to make it to Jr High where we could wear pants (but not jeans! That didn’t happen until High School).

  12. Sad about gender roles and individualism*

    Removed because this is a real erasure of nonbinary people’s identities.

  13. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP2: I am absolutely appalled at that dress code.

    I have a non binary member of staff who works mostly off site but when they do come in they’re always dressed smartly but in whatever style they feel. Male, female, neutral, mixed – never makes a difference to the quality of their work and all I ask if they go to client sites is that they wear PPE (we work in heavy engineering).

    There was a moment where someone else asked ‘so you male or female today?’ and that prompted a whole conversation. I wonder if your HR person is operating under this same incorrect belief and might need explanation that it’s not a case of ‘different genders on different days’’.

    It’s early days in the job, but a possible future plan when you’ve got a bit more time is to find others who are against the dress code – I guarantee with one that restrictive you won’t have to look far! – and push back. Not only is it really unsuitable for gender identity but it’s also against certain ethnic backgrounds and disabilities too!

    1. Ashkela*

      It sounds like in this situation, it’s not a case of different genders, different days, but there are those folx for whom that is true. In my experience, most folx I know for whom this would be true use the term ‘genderfluid’, which falls within ‘non-binary’ labels. (Sorry, it’s entirely probable you know that, but in case someone else reading didn’t)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Yeah, the difference between gender fluid and non binary is a bit tricky for some! I mean, I get it but some of my staff did have to have a little explanation.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          What is the difference then? I mean, if genderfluid is part of non-binary, what else is there to non-binary?
          (genuine question – knowing that you can find everything and its opposite on internet, I wouldn’t trust a search)

          1. Person from the Resume*

            Genderfluid can mean my feelings about my gender are not fixed and can change from day to day. I’m feeling femme today and want to dress in heels and a dress. The next day I’m feeling masc and want to wear a suit.

            Non-binary generally means I’m somewhere in the middle not on either side of the binary, but not that the person’s identity is shifting as strongly and frequently as someone who is genderfluid.

            These are not necessarily firmly agreed upon definitions.

            What a person wears is part of their gender expression, but it may or may not be strongly linked to their gender identity. Added to all this confusion is the societal stereotypes surrounding gender expression and dress. Where both men and women can wear pant and shorts, but it transgressive for a man to wear a dress or skirt.

            1. Person from the Resume*

              Non-binary can be interpreted as NOT identifying as a man or a woman or identifying with aspects of BOTH a man or a woman.

            2. Purple Cat*

              Thanks for this feedback.
              I (cishet female) always thought of it as NonBinary is “neither/nor” – not identifying as either gender while Gender Fluid is more of an “either/or” – today I’m male, tomorrow might be female, but feeling both genders consistently.

              1. ecnaseener*

                In my experience neither term is that cut and dry. Nonbinary *can* mean neither male nor female, but it can also mean both (equally or leaning one way or the other), fluid, and a host of other options. It’s an umbrella term for not COMPLETELY male or female.

                Similarly, genderfluid *can* mean feeling one binary gender one day and the other the next, but it encompasses much more than that. The shifts can be orders of magnitude quicker or slower, and they can be shifts between different nonbinary “points” not just between male and female.

              2. Jaybee*

                Genderfluid doesn’t necessarily mean moving between man/woman. A genderfluid person might shift from man to woman to a nonbinary gender, to agender, their gender shifts may not include either man or woman, etc.

                I think an (understandable) error many cis people make when trying to understand the trans community is centering the standard/cis understanding of what gender is. It leads to assumptions like yours (that genderfluid is about feeling ‘both genders’ consistently, with the assumption that it’s an identity based in the two standard genders) as well as other common misunderstandings, like the assumption that a ‘trans man’ is someone AMAB who is transitioning to a woman. Centering the normal gender experience.

                Like I said, it is understandable, but it’s going to lead to misunderstandings. The trans community centers the trans community; our language is generally based on the understanding that, while many people think of gender as being two standard options, there are a lot of people whose experiences and identities fall outside of those in ways that can’t be easily understood by trying to compare them to those two standard options.

                1. Purple Cat*

                  Thanks for the expansion. Completely agree that how I typed out my thought was limited and didn’t fully express how I think. I find it challenging to “explain” things in terms of the 2-gender construct when the reality is it’s a broad spectrum.

              3. marvin the paranoid android*

                I don’t think there is such a thing as a definitive definition of either, because both are just labels used to try to express and find commonality in a pretty wide array of experiences and identities. Everyone will choose one or more labels that currently feel most relevant to them and that they think will make sense to their audience.

                Currently we don’t really have a great range of specific language that really gets into the nuances of individual identities, and not everyone wants to go into that level of detail with people they don’t know that well, so blanket terms like “nonbinary” are often used as shorthand. (On the other hand, some people find these terms very meaningful in themselves.) I love it when people come up with their own language specific to their own experiences, but that kind of language isn’t always going to be suitable for all audiences.

            3. Rhoda*

              But doesn’t this just perpetuate the sexist association of woman with heels and a dress? I do think it’s a shame that people aren’t more accepting of men who challenge gender norms. Even now in the 21st century society sadly still seems to think a man being like a woman is degrading.

              1. Dahlia*

                No. Gender and presentation are linked but presentation does not cause gender.

                Being more femme some days and expressing that by wearing things like dresses harms no one. If you’re a woman who wears a dress some days, are you perptuating sexist associations? No. Neither are genderfluid people.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            To me it’s like the difference between being bisexual and pansexual. One fits into the gender binary and both genders are an option whereas the other doesn’t see gender as a binary at all.

            (For the record I’m pansexual. What gender someone identifies as or doesn’t has no bearing on whether I’m attracted to them or not)

            1. Allegra*

              It is a common misconception that the definition of bisexual means only attracted to the gender binary–some people interpret it as “attracted to my own gender and different genders” (my personal definition), or just “attracted to more than one gender”. For some people it may be true that they’re only attracted to people within a standard gender binary but it’s very much not true for all bisexual people or the definition of bisexuality as a whole. There’s a great site called “The Bisexual Index” that has a “What is Bisexuality” page that has a lovely explanation of this as well as other myths about bisexuality.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                This is why I define myself as pansexual basically. Avoids this misunderstanding!

                (Although the person at work who told me I couldn’t join the LGBTQ forum because ‘you’re married to a man therefore you’re not bisexual/pansexual’ could do with that link!)

                1. Hr*

                  Heh, that’s a lot of why I identify as bisexual – I don’t want to explain what pansexual is over and over again. I actually deeply resent that the creation of pansexuality as a label* has lead to the idea bisexual = only binary genders, though I definitely appreciate you are coming from a genuine place!

                  *I really vibed with pan when I first encountered the concept: pre bisexuality getting redefined as gender binary, I went off it because I detected a lot of weird back patting from some cis pansexuals for being inclusive of trans people, and lumping binary trans people in as “other”.

                2. Hrodvitnir*

                  Heh, that’s a lot of why I identify as bisexual – I don’t want to explain what pansexual is over and over again. I actually deeply resent that the creation of pansexuality as a label* has lead to the idea bisexual = only binary genders, though I definitely appreciate you are coming from a genuine place!

                  *I really vibed with pan when I first encountered the concept: pre bisexuality getting redefined as gender binary, I went off it because I detected a lot of weird back patting from some cis pansexuals for being inclusive of trans people, and lumping binary trans people in as “other”.

            2. Parakeet*

              This isn’t what bisexual is, and there’s a biphobic line that is all too common in some queer communities, that bi identity is inherently transphobic, which relies on exactly this myth. I’m a bi genderqueer/nonbinary person. I’m attracted to both similar and dissimilar genders (though my attraction tends to play out differently for different genders and presentations). There’s a lot that can go into specific terminology preferences, including historical and generational elements, what terms are most likely to be legible to others in one’s own communities, etc.

          3. Eliza*

            “Genderfluid” generally implies a gender identity or presentation that shifts over time, so (to simplify things a little) a genderfluid person might have days where they feel more like a man or more like a woman. “Non-binary” is an umbrella term that includes anyone who doesn’t fit into a binary gender identity, whether that means seeing oneself as both male and female at different times, both male and female at the same time, somewhere in between male and female, or neither male nor female.

          4. Jaybee*

            Nonbinary is an umbrella term that encompasses any gender identity outside of the ‘standard binary’. So anyone who identified as a gender other than man or woman can use the term nonbinary. (Not all of them do; agender people, for example, technically fall under nonbinary but most agender people I have known don’t use that label to describe themselves, they go straight to ‘agender’.)

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Right. Having read all the answers, I still get the impression that the more labels we have the more complicated it is, and it would be great if we could just stop labelling everyone and accept that there’s more than two genders and any amount of fluidity in how we identify and dress, and who we’re attracted to, and nobody need judge anyone for it.
              I mean, my BFF had always identified as cishet till she fell in love with a trans guy and didn’t care about him being trans. Now they’re married. She was wondering what label needed to be attributed to her now that she’s officially tied to a trans guy and I said it didn’t matter in the least, so long as you’re happy together.

              1. Dahlia*

                Trans men are men. She’s still heterosexual unless she’s also attracted to women. Trans men are not “men but not really”.

                Please don’t argue that we should “stop labelling everyone”. Labels are very important to a lot of us, and this is just dismissive and erasing.

                1. Max*

                  Just wanted to second this, and to underline the point that the original phrasing was pretty transphobic even if Rebel didn’t mean it that way. If the friend has only been attracted to men, and is attracted to her trans male partner and not to women, she is still straight. Not straight with an asterisk or a qualifier, because he is a man.

                  As a broader point, framing cis people as luckily “not caring” that a partner is trans, or saying “it doesn’t matter as long as you’re happy,” implies that most people would, or should, consider a partner’s transness as being a problem, a turn-off, or a complication. As a trans person, I don’t want my partner to be attracted to me DESPITE my transness, because my transness is not a problem or an obstacle — I want them to see, acknowledge, and value my transness as part of me.

              2. marvin the paranoid android*

                I think what would be really great is if everyone could respect the labels others use and feel free to use as few or as many labels as they like for themselves. It’s fine if labels aren’t really for you, but for many of us, they are a meaningful way to communicate a shared experience with a community, particularly if we have felt very alone in our identities for a long time. It’s okay to not be totally clear on what a label means for an individual person, as long as you call them what they want to be called and show them the respect of honouring how they want to identify.

              3. Elle*

                Trying to be kind here, but from this and some of your other comments, you seem to be operating from a limited understanding of trans issues and have accepted at least some transphobic perceptions as true. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you have bad intentions, but I think reading the comments from LGBTQ comments on this post and on some of the other websites recommended by other commenters would be extremely useful.
                Also, labels have a purpose. They can be a means of connecting similar people to create a community. Some queer people, including myself, find a lot of meaning in labels and their distinctions. Just because you don’t fully understand the meaning of a term or how it differs from another doesn’t make the distinction meaningless. Gender identity can be personal. Instead of trying to find and enforce one overarching meaning for each term, I would ask that you and others simply respect a person’s right to use a term like nonbinary or genderfluid for themselves without thinking they’re doing so incorrectly.

            2. SW*

              I personally always find it hilarious that as an agender person I’m always called on to talk about gender stuff. I don’t really understand what it means to be genderfluid or demigirl or such, but I don’t have to understand it to get that it’s really important to people. We can give definitions all we want, but the more important question is, “what does that label mean for you, person who uses it?”

  14. John Smith*

    #3. I find that this happens when the content of an email is inconvenient to the recipient and they’d rather ignore it or don’t want anyone else to see it. If their response doesn’t address the content of the omitted email to which they’re replying, I’ll respond with the full chain and ask if they missed the email in question, but in any case to respond to the content in question.

    One example is when I had to chase up a manager numerous times over a week for urgent authorisation on a project with no response. The emails included things like “the client needs to know by Wednesday” and “I’ve tried calling you on your landline and mobile and have left messages, I really need an answer on this by 4 pm”.

    He eventually replied – cc’ing his manager – but only responded to the original email. I replied back with the full email chain (also CCing his manager). They still tried to blame me for the deadline being missed and attempted to write me up. Said email chain was submitted as “exhibit 1 of 1” and the case abandoned.

    1. Mockingjay*

      The opposite is the email chain in which the original missive cc’s unnecessary people – usually managers – in a petty attempt to get the recipient in trouble or at least create an impression of incompetence. I reply only to the originator and first email on these.

      But to the LW’s issue, if a problem involves a long email chain and multiple parties, consider calling a meeting instead.

  15. Isashani*

    Re LW1 : intro meeting
    We do this when we hire : a 20min phonecall where we ask the candidate why they applied and then give them all the info that doesn’t fit on the job offer (narrower salary range included), plus answer questions.
    Basically, it’s to make sure the person is actually interested before organizing a formal “sit down” interview and spot any massive red flags (got to love the middle-aged guy that said “i love that there’s more women in tech becausd I don’t have time to meet people outside of work and I want kids, you know?”, to me, his future female boss, on a phone interview). Saves everybody time.

    And it also means that if Isashani, Mara and Kevin are interviewing Justin after a phone call with Mara, then Mara introduces Justin to the other two as “this candidate I’m enthusiastic about” instead of it being a 3 vs 1 interview from the get go which can be intimidating.

    1. whistle*

      But do you call it an “intro meeting” or an “interview”? If you’re calling it an intro meeting, that can be confusing for the candidates.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*


        We do the same thing, but we call it an “initial interview” so it’s clear we’re at the first step of considering them for the position. The recruiter will also explain the purpose of the initial interview – provide info about the job/organization, confirm we’re on the same page on pay, answer any benefits questions, and see if there is mutual interest in moving them to a full interview.

        From what I read here, my HR recruiters are unusually good, though – no ghosting, explaining the hiring process/timeline, prompt return contact/status updates, and respects for the candidates’ time by consolidating interviews.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*


        We do the same thing, but we call it an “initial interview” so it’s clear we’re at the first step of considering them for the position. The recruiter will also explain the purpose of the initial interview – provide info about the job/organization, confirm we’re on the same page on pay, answer any benefits questions, and see if there is mutual interest in moving them to a full interview.

        From what I read here, though, my HR recruiters are unusually good, though – no ghosting, explaining the hiring process/timeline, prompt return contact/status updates, and respects for the candidates’ time by consolidating interviews.

    2. hamsterpants*

      I too would read it as a phone screen rather than full interview — though I would prepare for both to be sure!

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I think a lot of hiring managers, etc., avoid using the word ‘interview’ because it can sound formal or daunting. At least, that’s what some of those folks have told me.

      On the other hand, several people I know – myself included – have been on the receiving end of daunting and hour-long ‘phone screens’ or ‘intro calls’ or ‘chats’ that lasted an hour. So there’s that.

    4. Environmental Compliance*

      When I started at my current job the HR rep did the same thing – they set up an “introductory phone call” (which they specified would not be an interview, just to go over more on job details that didn’t fit in the posting and answer questions – of course of which would be treated as a screen as well). They specified it would be a maximum of 30 minutes – and it was! And as the candidate walking into a panel interview – 6 people interviewed me, including 2 plant managers – having a familiar voice/face from the HR rep was quite nice, especially when they were the person who walked me in and gave me some prep tips in a 10 minute mini-meeting beforehand (and a bottle of water, even).

  16. Allonge*

    If a training does not work unless you are 100% present, it’s likely to be a bad training in the first place, but ‘on camera’ is not a substitute for ‘present’! I menstruate, I cannot, this week, deal with breaks less frequent than once an hour. I am about as priviledged as a woman gets, and not particularly shy, so I would be tempted to bring the laptop with me to the bathroom to make my point, but it’s really ridiculous.

    Both for LW2 and LW4 actually: inflexible, detailed policies create additional work and stress for employees and managers and (surprise!) negatively impact disadvantaged folks, usually for no good reason (yes, there was an “issue” when that guy wore a kilt once, that’s why the policy. Still not a reason. He was most likely feeling too warm for pants, it happens in the summer).

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      The comment about the kilt reminds me of the yearly song-and-dance bus drivers have to (had to?) do when it’s too warm. I don’t know if the policy changed, but the men weren’t allowed to wear shorts in the summer while the women were allowed skirts. Cue a bunch of bus drivers coming to work in skirts (though I’d have to check if their policy was actually gendered or if it just said “trousers or skirts, no shorts” all across the board). Might have changed since then, but it was an amusing reminder of how arbitrary dress codes can get.
      We’ve also had high school boys dressing in the exact clothing that got their female classmates in trouble in at least one school as an action against equally arbitrary dress codes.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah we’ve had boys protesting on behalf of their female classmates by wearing skirts – where I went to school the uniform was black or grey trousers for girls and boys, or skirts for girls, and anyone could wear shorts in the summer, but there are some posher schools that have much more formal uniforms with blazers and trousers for boys and blazers and skirts/kilts for girls, and girls are not allowed to wear trousers, so at least once a year you’ll see a news story where the boys have got together to wear the school uniform skirts to lessons to make a point.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          I can also remember boys over here protesting about having to wear trousers in the middle of a heatwave and being denied shorts, so going into school in borrowed skirts instead.

  17. RG*

    Re pumping, you are entitled to breaks. As in, complete breaks, not cameras off but still working.
    I wish companies, and individuals, would appreciate the physiology of breastfeeding. For some people, they can do work during pumping that’s their choice, but for many, working will slow down production. We don’t make people work while having a poo, why is it expected to work while pumping?

      1. Thegreatprevaricator*

        I was scrolling the comments seeing if this was discussed: in the UK, a new mother can take more frequent breaks and an employer is required to provide an area where they can rest. There is explicit guidance on good practice in providing a private area to pump and that toilets are not suitable. In practice, it may not end up being private but the more frequent breaks is a legal thing. And you can’t limit how long pumping takes. The employer has a duty of care to remote employees and thus, allowing turning your camera off at regular intervals would be a totally reasonable accommodation to make. I agree that rigidity is counterproductive.

    1. Irish girl*

      If the LW is a manger, she probably doesn’t have legal protection for pumping. That being said, her company might allow all nursing employees pumping breaks which they would still need to honor while she was in training. Even pre-covid if she was at an all day event, there would be an expectation that if she asked, a room could be made avaliable to her for pumping. I had to leave in-person training in my office to use the mother’s room to pump and no one batted an eye that i missed 25 mins.

  18. NYWeasel*

    Re OP5: Given that you’ve been able to be quite open with your company regarding your move, why are they not prioritizing your replacement first before they hire the junior role? It makes zero sense to me to hire a subordinate who presumably isn’t qualified to take over for you first when there’s an overlap and chance to work directly with you. Besides the concerns you raised about the new employee feeling lied to, I would be worried both about the potential for either the new employee to be overwhelmed when your gone or for the company to drag their feet on the manager hire, leaving the new employee with unrealistic expectations for even an experienced person, let alone a new hire.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      The new employee will be added to an existing team. There’s no reason to assume they will be overwhelmed, or will be expected to take over for the LW.

    2. ecnaseener*

      This doesn’t seem that weird to me. There are two positions they need to fill, they’re probably working on both at the same time. I don’t see anything in the letter to imply that this new junior role will be the one to cover LW’s responsibilities if they aren’t replaced – seems more likely that would fall on a more seasoned team member.

  19. Lost academic*

    I had similar video needs while pumping with both kids, pre and mid pandemic. I prepped everything ahead of time (this is much easier at home) and framed only my face in the camera. It’s a little tricky at first but gets easier. Pre pandemic I commandeered a private space for the duration.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      yeah so basically you carried on working while pumping. This may be good for your milk, since you’re not stressing about every little ounce you pump, but it may be bad too if you’re given bad news during your meeting. Stress is not good for milk supply! So it would be far better to be able to have a proper break, with enough time not to have to hurry. Which you were able to have when working on-site!

  20. hamsterpants*

    #5 Please tell at or before the offer stage. Some people, like me, might have been burned before by a great boss being replaced by a lousy one. And while I believe you that you’re only leaving the job because you’re moving, practically speaking no one knows if that’s the whole truth or just the polite half-truth one tells when leaving a bad workplace. So please tell the candidate so they can include the information in their decision and not be blindsided after they already committed!

    1. iceberry*

      100% – I actually have accepted jobs because I really liked the dynamic with the manager. I once had 3 job offers and the manager for the job I selected was the factor that made me choose that job over the other 2 options. Only to find out he was leaving 3 months later. Had I known, I would have made a different decision. This is very important information to some candidates, please don’t blindside them. If “people leave managers, not jobs” why wouldn’t the inverse be true for some as well?

    2. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      Agree that it’s worth disclosing. It can make a candidate feel bait-and-switched otherwise, even if that’s not the intent (or even the effect — even if the new boss is great), and start the person off on an uncomfortable footing. I came to understand this after I was promoted to manager (from team lead) during someone’s candidacy. As team lead about to be promoted, I was kind of the lead on the hiring process anyway, but the candidate understood that someone else was the hiring manager. After she came on board, one of the first questions she asked me was, “Are things stable here? Am I likely to change managers often?” It had never occurred to me that the change might make her nervous, so I was glad she asked about it, so that I could reassure her that as far as I knew, there were no further changes in the works. And there weren’t — I remained her manager for about four years, until I was promoted again, and by then she had a good relationship with the person who took over her team, and wasn’t surprised by the change at all. :) But it added this concern to my mental list of the sort of thing candidates might worry about, whether they ask about it or not.

      1. hamsterpants*

        Yep — without the context of having worked at the office for a while, a new hire has no idea if getting a new manager is very rare and they just go unlucky, or if they should expect a revolving door of managers and constant organizational upheaval. Even being verbally assured that things are normally stable doesn’t really assuage the concern because, well, management isn’t always truthful about this sort of thing (though it helps!). So the more warning that can be given, the better. As a bonus, the fact that an organization will care enough about a (prospective) new hire to give them the information to make an informed decision is a green flag. “Oops we forget to tell you about this massive thing that will impact your career” is a red flag. No reason to keep it secret unless the org is trying to hide something else.

    3. Wolfie*

      I agree, please disclose this. It happened to me. The hiring manager was someone I had worked with at a different company, and I was very excited to work with him. He left a couple months later, and my new manager fired me about 5 months after that, with no warning, and it was devastating. She just didn’t like me, and I wasn’t her choice.

  21. Raven*

    For #2, I can’t really personally relate, but I’d have to assume something like casual pants and a collared shirt would work for the men’s or women’s dress code right? Maybe just don’t wear any of the “not allowed” things from either side, assuming that isn’t too difficult. That said, I also in general have an issue with some of the gendered dress code stuff as a cis man. There is really no reason men can’t wear shorts but women can. I’ve been at places where women could wear sandals or flip flops, but men couldn’t. It just was unfair from the beginning. Good luck though.

    #3. This may just depend on what specifically you are saying and how much it adds to the conversation. I’ve been copied on emails where, by the time I read it, there is a lot of back and forth that doesn’t apply to me, so I’ll just reply to the initial email. I’d try not to take it personally unless you are bringing up really important things that are being ignored.

    1. SJ*

      “For #2, I can’t really personally relate, but I’d have to assume something like casual pants and a collared shirt would work for the men’s or women’s dress code right? Maybe just don’t wear any of the “not allowed” things from either side, assuming that isn’t too difficult.”

      Not OP but am nonbinary and no, this won’t work.

      1. Raven*

        Can you explain what about that doesn’t work? Like, I’m not trying to be argumentative, I just am not understanding why pants (in whatever cut) and a shirt (male or female) won’t work.

        1. Jaybee*

          It depends on the particular gender expression/physical comfort needs of the nonbinary person. Just like some women are only comfortable in skirts (my sister, for example, has not worn pants in over a decade) some nonbinary people are also only comfortable in skirts, which would rapidly create an issue if men are not allowed to wear skirts (regardless of how professional the skirt) and people perceive them as a man.

        2. FridayFriyay*

          I guess I’d ask you a question in response: why do you feel it WOULD work to limit a nonbinary person to a very narrow range of clothing that does not allow them to express their gender in the way they’d like? Femme aspects of identity are often expressed wearing skirts or dresses, regardless of the person’s gender identity? Why is it that cis people often feel that undermining or ignoring trans and nonbinary folks’ identities is an appropriate solution?

        3. I should really pick a name*

          It means that they’re limited to a subset of both the men’s and women’s dress code.
          It’s basically the worst of both worlds.

          1. Clorinda*

            They’s end up having to pick from the men’s side only as the most neutral option, which means taking a side when they’d really rather not take a side.

            This whole discussion reminds me of how twenty years ago or so people who meant well would ask lesbian couples which one of them was the husband in the relationship. “There is no husband” blew their minds. OP, being nonbinary, doesn’t want to be forced into making a choice in the binary system.

            1. Lucy Skywalker*

              I could never understand that. Isn’t the whole point of a lesbian marriage that there is no man?

    2. Elle*

      I could be wrong about this, but the description of the dresscode that was given seemed fairly formal and with two pretty distinct categories. I’m not sure “casual pants” would be included for anyone. If that solution was available and acceptable to OP I’m not sure they would have written in, but it’s possible.

  22. anonymous73*

    #1 – IME an intro meeting is usually with a recruiter. It’s a quick 5-10 minute call for them to ask you high level questions and determine if you’re qualified to pass on to the hiring manager. It’s definitely interview-like, but to me not as stressful. That being said, all companies are different in their terminology. Treat it as an interview – it’s better to be over prepared than not prepared enough.
    #4 – I agree with Alison. Don’t ask permission, just let them know what you’ll be doing. But since it’s an outside vendor, and they’re very strict about having the camera on at all times, I would also let your manager know so you’re covered if the vendor decides to report you as not following the rules.

  23. Dax*

    For LW #2 – this company actually doesn’t sound very inclusive. Maybe they like to say they are, but in practice, they’re not? The rule about men not being able to wear makeup feels like it would be very problematic for some non-binary people. I follow a non-binary TikToker who typically has facial hair and wears makeup at the same time. I think we all give up some self-expression at work, but this feels especially strict. I have no answers, this is just something that sticks out to me.

    1. Lyon*

      Yup. I’m trans and went thru a (binary) transition at a traditional workplace, and that was bad enough. Having to essentially do drag before I came out in the name of professionalism sucked, as did the period of time between when I came out and when I was correctly gendered by strangers (when I didn’t know what to wear, and worried that I was constantly being scrutinized, and that people would report me for wearing the wrong thing or being in the wrong bathroom. They didn’t… But by the letter of the company handbook, they could have.) If you’re non-binary, it’s worse because both lists are drag, and it never ends.

      These dress codes also hurt cis people. How do your gender expression have anything to do with professionalism?

      The spectre of professionalism was a huge problem in my transition, tbh, because when “gender conformity = professionalism” gets in your head, it starts to feel unprofessional to come out at work at all.

      1. Jessica Ganschen*

        “These dress codes also hurt cis people.” Absolutely!! I’m non-binary, but I’m also a butch woman, and there are plenty of butch women who are completely cisgender. Everybody should have the right to dress in a way that makes them comfortable, even within a business dress code, whether they’re GNC cis people or non-binary people for whom there is no socially prescribed gender role.

      2. Dax*

        It’s interesting that you mention gendered dress codes harm cis people too, because I (a cis woman) have found that in manufacturing, where I’ve spent my career, women who present as very feminine are often taken less seriously, and even perceived as “dumb”. I love jewelry and makeup and pretty clothes, and I definitely dial it back most days in order to be more like “the guys”. Over the past couple of years, though, I’ve started pushing back on that. My office is decorated very girly, I wear (mostly) what I want, and I just got an “Exceeds” performance review yesterday! Imagine that, being feminine and a high performer!

  24. Lyon*

    OP1, as someone who has tried to keep things casual in interviews to get a sense of what it would be like to be someone’s coworker instead of their “interview self”, I sympathize with what might be the interviewer’s reasoning here of avoiding the “i-word” to make the meeting seem more casual and two-sided. You’re both just getting to know each other and see if you mutually want to work together! That’s how interviews should be anyway.

    But it’s backfired for the reasons you and Alison pointed out. You’re more stressed because the coy wording leaves you confused about what’s actually happening. In effect, it feels like Casual Friday and other efforts by businesses to seem more relaxed and cool: instead of actually loosening the rules/norms, it just replaces them with a new set that is harder to abide by because they are unacknowledged and you have to pretend you’re having fun.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I feel like the way to make the meeting more casual is not to use what feel like code words. “Intro meeting” sounds like it should mean a specific thing, so LW is stressing about what it means. Vs “a 10 minute chat to tell you about the role and see if we both want to move forward with an interview”

    2. Sara without an H*

      I think you’re right. They’re trying to solve one problem and creating another one in its place. Funny how that works…

      OP#1, when in doubt, treat ANY interaction with a prospective employer as part of the interview — written, oral, in person, remote. It can’t hurt and reduces the chance of your being caught flat-footed by an unexpected question.

      Please send us an update and let us know how it went.

  25. anonymous73*

    #3 – I wouldn’t take it personally. As as Project Manager (and former Business Analyst) I often have to send emails to groups of people. And I’m often frustrated because people JUST DON”T READ THEM. I’ll ask 2 questions and they answer one but not the other. Or they respond with something that answers nothing. Or it’s clear that they just skimmed over it and didn’t really get it. They could have a zillion emails in their inbox and just not see yours. And there could also be many other reasons. If it becomes an issue that affects your work or holds you back, as in you’re trying to contribute/give feedback/ask your own questions and they’re always being ignored, you may want to mention it to your manager. But otherwise, I would just roll with it. It happens to all of us and yes it sucks.

  26. PrairieEffingDawn*

    5- I think letting candidates know you’re leaving is a courtesy. I started a new job a couple months ago and the director with whom I interviewed (and really liked) had left the company by my first day on the job. I did feel blindsided and it made my first few days on the job filled with worry that I wouldn’t have had if I’d previously known he was leaving.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      It is a courtesy, and I think doable in the OPs instance. But what if I was interviewing? Using 2 week notice periods, you probably wouldn’t be ready to share you were leaving until after someone had already been hired and given their own notice. So it’s just not feasible for a lot of people.

  27. Person from the Resume*

    I’m sorry LW2 because this answer isn’t helpful to you who is really just trying to fit and get along.

    In the righteousness of my own mind, I’d tell that HR person that since I’m NB and neither a man nor a woman, the dress code doesn’t have anything that apples to me and they should correct that oversight. They should correct that oversite by just removing the genders and allow what they allow for everyone and prohibit what they prohibit for everyone, but that allows men to wear certain things stereotypically for women and they probably wouldn’t like that.

    Other option is to just follow both lists even if you’re wearing masculine suit and make-up and heels. But that mix is usual and transgressive and would draw a lot of attention.

    1. I exist*

      what I thought I was going to read was “the dress code doesn’t have anything that applies to me and… I guess I won’t wear anything.”
      apologies for my dumb humor… it’s helping my aggravation at so many things around me being gendered unnecessarily lately when I don’t even want a gender

      1. Person from the Resume*

        LOL! I thought of joking about that too. Since you don’t have a dress code that applies to my gender identity, I guess I nothing is approved for me to wear.

      2. Nanani*

        The K.K. Slider approach.
        If that dog can be a successful musician with no clothes at all, why can’t we all learn

        (I hear you on the pointless gendering and wish we could all just quit playing pink and blue make believe)

    2. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

      I really liked an above commenter’s line being “clean, neat, and business professional” as that trusts the employee’s judgement and doesn’t (I think?) seem overly restrictive…

  28. desk platypus*

    LW #5: Please let them know! When I interviewed with my current position I wasn’t told that my direct supervisor would be retiring three months after my hiring. She intended to retire sooner but stayed on an extra month just to get me acclimated but that wasn’t nearly enough time. She had been there over 15 years with a department that has very little turnover and had since developed an immensely toxic culture. Part of my training, since I was directly beneath her in the hierarchy, involved her telling me I wasn’t going to change defiant attitudes. So I was effectively left in a position higher than the rest of the combative team but one without supervisory powers and with the most SparkNotes type training because my exiting boss hadn’t trained anyone in ages and was, honestly, eager to simply leave. It took nearly a year to get in a replacement for her and it was horrible all the while. If I had known I would have never accepted the role.

  29. Fabulous*

    #4 – I totally feel you on this one…

    I just got done pumping after about 12 months last fall, and I had to pump during my fair share of virtual meetings that got scheduled during or around my set pumping times (and I pumped 3x per day for 30 minutes, for a total of about 40-45 minutes each time with setup and storage, so there wasn’t much escape). I had to turn my camera off while I got ready – because, hello boobies! – but if I needed to, I could at least position the camera a bit higher so they couldn’t see anything while I was pumping. I did, however, have to turn off my mic or put my pump on the floor so other listeners didn’t get inundated with the loud RRRR RRRR RRRR RRRR of the pump (though, maybe in your case it would make sense to make them listen, especially if they’re still unreasonable after talking to them!)

    In any case, I wholeheartedly agree with Alison. Definitely talk to the vendor – you should be able to take breaks as needed and pump with your camera off for privacy. While there are different laws for each state, I found this site which has (and links to) some good advice too https://exclusivepumping . com/pumping-at-work-laws/

    The law requires that employers give lactating mothers “reasonable break time” to express breast milk. The law does not define any specifics around what “reasonable” means, but the United States Breastfeeding Committee has some guidance for employers that may be useful.

  30. Erin*

    For LW5, definitely tell them you’re leaving! I found out a week or so before starting a position that the hiring manager (with whom I was very excited to be working) would be leaving a few weeks after I started. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but I wish I had rescinded my acceptance when I found that out, because my team was without a manager for several months and it was a nightmare.

    1. lindtold*

      Hard agree. I found out on my first day of a small org (6 people) that our ED was leaving. I was so pissed off. The ED’s logic was to get staff in place so she could peace out and recover from burnout, but I took that job partially because I wanted to work with her.

  31. Lora*

    OP5, definitely let them know! This is a dealbreaker for me, I have four times now taken a job expressly BECAUSE I would be working for / with someone who I got along with really well, who was famous for their mentoring abilities, who had been specifically recommended to me by a colleague as a great manager, etc. only to have them leave either before or shortly after I started working there, for various reasons. In two of these cases, the replacement managers were downright terrible and had I interviewed with the replacement manager I would never have gone past a phone screen.

  32. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

    #5 definitely has relevance for me. I interviewed for a church admin assistant job in December and was hired. Immediately after accepting that job I saw that my supervisor’s job was posted. Did not set well with me at all. They should have told me at my interview, but even more, they should have hired the mgr *first*. I liked the woman I thought I’d be working for but I know all too painfully how difficult a church environment can be, and was already having anxiety over taking that job anyway. I backed out of taking it, but there were other reasons too.

    They were gracious about my declining to work there after all but didn’t get it when I explained that replacing both office people at the same time was in fact remaking the office. I do not regret that decision.

  33. Bend & Snap*

    #5 definitely tell people. Changing managers is a big deal.

    I had a job offer with a major tech company and they introduced a new manager after they extended the offer. When I talked to her she said she “didn’t expect me to run off and do things by myself” and she’d be “down in the weeds with me.” I was almost 15 years into my career at that point.

    I didn’t take the offer because of her and have never regretted it.

  34. Tired social worker*

    One thing I don’t often see pointed out re: Zoom cameras is the amount of bandwidth it can take up when everyone has their camera on, especially in a big meeting. I attended some Zoom trainings while I was WFH in 2020, and my internet connection was already not the best. The moment the trainer would request everyone turn their camera on, I’d start getting unstable connection warnings, and even got kicked off the call entirely a couple times. It was slightly better if I bucked the rule and turned off my camera. But especially in households with kids doing remote learning and/or more than one adult working from home, that kind of rule is just not a recipe for success.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      +100 this is a good point. I had a training where there were only 5 of us, and I was the only one home, but the connection was so crappy that having the cameras on the entire time was frustrating at best.

  35. EmilyAnn*

    Letter #1 brought up a fond memory. I was asked to come in to “chat with the team”. I turned out to be a panel interview with 5 people. I wasn’t prepared for that at all. I later learned that the deputy spoke like this all the time. Due to circumstances, within a year I was the deputy and loved working for her, but I always knew she could sometimes be indirect and vague.

  36. idwtpaun*

    My mind presented me with two meme responses to LW2’s infuriating (on the LW’s behalf) letter. The first was that The Good Place exchange of “is it a cactus” with the Co. going, “Correct, it is not a binary dress code, it is a non-binary alternative” and then presenting the LW with the same binary dress code. The other is a Scooby Gang unmasking in which they rip the “progressive company” hood off the villain to reveal “conservative values” underneath. (Men can’t wear make-up, really? I hope some man working there uses a touch powder for an even skin tone and I dare anyone to notice.)

    1. pancakes*

      Please let us know where you are that is a post-gender paradise! I’m not even NB but would probably enjoy it there.

      1. urguncle*

        Every tech company I’ve worked at the dress code was “please wear clothes, preferably clean ones.” Even as a non-binary person in a customer facing position, I was expected to look presentable for customer calls and business casual for the very rare in-person customer meetings.

      2. JustaTech*

        So at the manufacturing sites at my work, if you are doing manufacturing you wear (hideous) non-gendered scrubs (the clean room kind, which are long sleeved and have big elastic cuffs at the wrists and ankles) and a full clean room getup (not quite a space suit, but close). Oh, and shoes that never leave the facility, usually clogs or crocs.
        The grooming rules, based completely on clean room requirements are: no nail polish of any kind, no acrylic nails, no makeup of any kind, if you have facial hair it must fit under your mask, please do wear lotion including on your face (to reduce skin shedding). Hair must be able to be contained under the cap and hood. It’s all about avoiding particulates and things that could damage your gloves (acrylics) and compromise sterility.

        Outside the clean room folks tend to dress pretty casually (since they’ll be changing). As for everyone else, the more outward facing your job is the more formal your business attire, but since then it’s the wearer’s choice it tends to be more gendered.

      3. Starbuck*

        In my experience in the PNW, most places are pretty dang casual outside the industries with a known stuffy/conservative bent (like banking and finance). I worked in foodservice for a bit, and sure there was the company-provided shirt and pant/bottom color required, but they didn’t care what you did re: hair, makeup, piercings, tattoos, etc as long as you were health-code compliant.

        Where I work now the dress code is just ‘try to be neat an presentable’ with the understanding that sometimes we’re in the office and sometimes we’re doing messy field work so task & weather appropriate clothes are the priority, nothing is formally specified though. I’m education-adjacent and teachers that I’ve worked with don’t seem very limited in how they can present and I think that’s often a good barometer because in addition to the stuffy formal industries, people can get weirdly restrictive when you’re working with children.

        Not to say that it’s fully a post-gender paradise here but I think we’ve got it relatively good.

  37. SJ (they/them)*

    OP #2, I am just going to add to please take good care of yourself in the coming days/weeks/etc as you deal with this. It’s can be really destabilizing when something like this happens, even if it eventually gets resolved in a way that works for you. Whatever supports you have that help you feel secure in yourself — friends or therapy or self-care activities — I hope you will lean on them as much as you need to. I am sending you all my love and support, and wishing you many healing moments of euphoria to keep you going.

  38. LizM*

    We’re currently dealing with my child’s school dress code and it’s…shortfalls when it comes to how it impacts pretty much everyone except gender-conforming cis boys. This is a fairly progressive school in a progressive community but it’s just been a total blind spot for our school’s administration.

    I don’t think it’s OP’s job to educate, but I hope that everyone reading this thread who cares about inclusion takes this as an opportunity to look at older policies that were written through a more binary lens. As organizations, we shouldn’t wait for nonbinary, trans, or cis individuals who don’t always conform with gender norms to have to raise these issues. It’s the difference between saying the right things in your marketing materials and actually committing to an inclusive, welcoming workplace.

  39. Esmeralda*

    OP 2 and OP4: Diversity. Inclusion. I want to say to these employers: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      Someone can had a desire to be inclusive while not fully understanding just how inclusive “regular” things are.

  40. Observer*

    #2 – I haven’t read all of the responses, so if I’m repeating I apologize.

    The first thing that jumped out at me was your concern that someone might report you. If this is the kind of company where people “report” each other for things that don’t directly affect them, that’s pretty bad all on its own. I would hope that if someone DID “report” you, HR would tell them to run along. Even if you showed up in TRULY work inappropriate clothes (Dressed like a Disney character, wearing ostrich feathers and wings, etc.) no one has any business going to HR about it, assuming you also didn’t do something like pop into a meeting you don’t belong in anyway.

    Secondly, even if you don’t get anywhere with HR (or until you get this clarified), I think that talking to them would be useful in at least one respect. If someone were busybody enough to “report” you because they thought that you are wearing the “wrong” clothes, at least HR would have it on record that they are incorrect, even by their own standards. That obviously doesn’t deal with the bigger issue, but it should give you enough space to figure out whether you want to stay with this company and make an exit plan on your own terms if the answer is “no.”

    You say that your clothing is fairly androgynous. As a practical matter, how likely is it really for someone to look at you and say “OMG, why is SHE wearing men’s pants?” or “What on earth is HE doing wearing a woman’s shirt?” Again, I get that this doesn’t deal with the bigger issue – you shouldn’t have to worry about this at all. But it could give you a bit of breathing room till you figure out what your next steps should be.

  41. oranges*

    I got surprised by the “intro meeting” wording a few years ago, so yes, it’s an interview.

    I wasn’t job searching at all but threw my hat in the ring for an internal posting. The recruiter (a friend) set up a “brief/casual intro meeting to talk about position.” Our company is low-level business casual, so I showed up in the sweater I’d normally wear. THE HIRING MANAGER WAS IN FULL SUIT AND IT WAS A FULL INTERVIEW.

    Ultimately got the job, but the recruiter and I still give each other crap for the look on my face when I walked into that conference room for that “brief/casual intro meeting.”

  42. GDUB*

    I got all excited about the virtual meeting/pumping letter when I misread the last line:

    But I also don’t want to seem aggressive or problematic since this is our CEO’s “baby.”

    Those quotation marks are doing a lot of work there!

  43. OP 1*

    Lw1 here! I already have an update—it was DEFINITELY an interview. Thankfully I did prepare as if it would be, again following AAM advice.

    It went great! We talked for over an hour, and I think I got a good feel for the role (rather than spending so much energy selling myself that I forgot to evaluate whether the job is good for me too.) At the end of the “intro meeting” he invited me back to meet with some of the other partners and key employees, so I’m going back in for a second interview tomorrow morning!

    I do think the interviewer softened the language to make it feel less intimidating than the I-word, and probably also to set the stage to have multiple interviews. In any case, I’m glad I prepared and SUPER glad I follow AAM!

  44. Danielle*

    Thank you for your words about an “intro meeting” being an interview. I recently had a Zoom interview that was presented as a “grip and grin” (odd wording, I know). I asked how long it would be and who would be on the hiring committee. I was told “no longer than 2 minutes” and not given the names or titles of the people who would be on the call. It turns out that it was a committee of 6, was much more than an intro, and was definitely NOT 2 minutes.

  45. Sara without an H*

    Re OP #2 and corporate dress codes (gendered or not): Given the current turmoil in the labor supply, I would recommend all readers who have any role in management push to have dress codes eliminated or, at least, seriously re-examined. Any rule requiring a specific mode of dress needs to have a business reason behind it.

    Is it important for safety? Then hard hats and steel-toed shoes are reasonable requirements.
    Is it important for sanitary reasons? Then masks, gloves, and hairnets can be legitimately required.

    But if the justification for the dress code boils down to “it just looks wrong to me,” or “that’s just how it’s done in our industry,” then that dress code needs to be reviewed.

    “Professional” attire is subjective and varies a lot with culture, class, industry, and region of the country. As previous commenters have pointed out, it also usually reflects the social expectations of upper class white people.

    And in today’s climate, anything done because it’s always been done that way really, really needs to be reviewed.

  46. Lizy*

    I haven’t read all the comments, but perhaps a slightly different take on #2 – as a cis-woman, I would not think twice about responding the way the HR person did. And I would absolutely mean “choose whatever clothes work best in the parameters given” and fully expect OP to pick and choose as they want for any given day. For example, the no-makeup would obviously not apply because OP is not male. Any “women can’t wear open-toed shoes” I would think does apply because I would assume men aren’t allowed to walk around in flipflops either. So while I don’t think HR is “right”, I don’t think they meant to be exclusionary in their response. (Obviously something they should be aware of though.)

    That being said – this type of language is obnoxious anyhow and I think it’s dumb. A simple “business professional” or “casual” should be more than sufficient.

  47. Floofy Cat*

    On #5, I wish so much that one of my previous managers had told me she would be leaving soon during my hiring process. I recognize that it’s always important to get certain things in writing, but my job, expectations, and opportunities for training changed drastically after that person left. There was also a snafu with my part time/full time status where I lost what should have been earned PTO, and that also caused a delay in my benefits. And I was hired at a lower rate than promised. And I was told at hiring that they were loose on start times with a 10 minute grace period, then later written up for not being on time. There was…quite a list of things.

    In my case, it appeared that my hiring manager was making me promises the company was unable to keep, which I’m sure the LW does not intend to do! But had she told me she would be leaving the company about a week after my start date, I would have gotten a LOT more things in writing before agreeing to take the position.

  48. middle name danger*

    I’m job hunting for the first time since coming out as nonbinary and starting to physically transition, and trying to figure out what to wear and how to present for interviews is a nightmare.

  49. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP #2: OOF, it’s like being in 1986 with that gendered dress code!

    You state that you have professional and smart looking clothes – Okay, wear those clothes with confidence, and don’t worry about it, especially given the HR response you already received. I don’t want to be dismissive here, but I bet you care way more about this than anyone else in that office. Be confident in your clothing choices. No one has actually commented on your clothes, right? When it comes to this kind of workplace issue, I start with the base assumption that I decide what is acceptable, appropriate and reasonable, based on my own judgement, within the parameters of any applicable written policy. That’s all that any of us can do. Sometimes policies require… interpretation. Some companies simply don’t update their policies often enough. Some policies are bad or poorly drafted to begin with. The fact that your employer has a gendered dress code – that’s quite the dinosaur. Makes me wonder what industry this is.

    1. SW*

      I think you underestimate how professional norms can be used against marginalized people by their coworkers and bosses. “I didn’t promote the OP because they fail to dress professionally” is a legitimate reason in the US. A coworker with a vendetta can use the OP’s dress against them when complaining to a higher-up. It’s absolutely essential to have this down in writing now because it leaves a paper trail. And because it means that HR has a set response should someone come to HR about the OP rather than trying to think of something on the fly. The OP is not being paranoid as a marginalized person.

  50. Anonomatopoeia*

    So, nonbinary at work — I think Alison is right, but I also think she doesn’t go quite far enough. One of the things that might be a clothing choice a person, nonbinary or otherwise but particularly nonbinary, might make is to wear clothing from the men’s list, but jewelry or makeup from the women’s. Or heels! (I am cis female and am a hard no on both makeup and heels, but this doesn’t mean you gotta be, letter writer). So, I think part of the education you might need to offer (I’m sorry, shouldn’t be your job) is that besides not just picking one all the time because that’s problematic, you maybe also can’t just pick one per instance. You might show up in trousers, vest, and coat, all of which read as masculine, and also be rocking a perfect winged-eye eyeliner look and shiny black pumps, and that’s in keeping with your gender and is totally appropriate. I’m not saying that’s how you SHOULD dress as a nonbinary person — but my feeling is that a lot of people would perceive the outfit above as performative (and I mean, we all perform gender, whether or not it’s within the confines of a binary worldview, so I guess it is, but I mean, in the call-for-attention way), so I think it’s useful to describe or name a particular constellation or two of “male” and “female” items worn together as an example of appropriate wear, while still making clear that this is not the only want to be nonbinary, you know?

    1. SW*

      That sounds exhausting and unlikely to work, because lots of cis people just don’t get it. Like I’ve been out as nonbinary and I use they/them pronouns. Despite having worked in the same company for six years, if I wear anything but clearly masculine clothing, people use she/her. It’s very difficult to shift the opinions of people in the majority and it’s run me ragged in the past trying to get cis people to read me as nonbinary.

  51. Ursula*

    IMO (as a non-binary person) there is exactly zero need for any dress code to be gendered at all. Just specify what bits have to be covered and what level of formality you need, and bam, you’re done. Women shouldn’t be allowed to show lower legs if men can’t, and men shouldn’t be able to show their chest if women can’t. I really wish people would stop gendering EVERYTHING.

  52. Beeblebrox*

    It would be interesting to read the actual dress code policy from OP2’s workplace. Here is an example of what I see in my industry:

    “The company has a professional yet informal working environment. There is no formal dress code, but employees should have a neat, clean appearance, including appropriate personal hygiene and grooming. Employees should use their own discretion, judgement and common sense to comply with this policy.”

    Pretty simple. I don’t even remember the last time I saw a gendered dress code, but I’m sure it was over 20 years ago, when I worked in law firms.

  53. raida7*

    5. Should I let job candidates know I’m going to be leaving soon after they start?

    Try to include someone else from your team that will be working with the new person in the interview process – so that they get an idea of the team they *will* be working with.
    Maybe you have someone available to answer “what day a normal day look like?” questions, maybe you have someone there to give examples of what a busy period entailed, or maybe you have them just as a panel member the entire way through.

  54. Reply-all*

    LW3, make sure you are doing “reply all”, not “reply”! Many email clients will default to “reply” if you don’t change any settings, and then only the person who sent the message prior to yours will see it, and everyone else in the chain will have no idea you said anything.

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